Loyola Enrolling Patients in Clinical Trial Using PET Scans to Diagnose Alzheimer’s

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Loyola Medicine will participate in a landmark $100 million study called “Imaging Dementia – Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS)” to evaluate the effectiveness of using positron emission tomography (PET) scans to detect Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The IDEAS (NCT02420756) study is based on the rationale that because clumps of amyloid proteins, which block signals in the brain, have been observed in AD patients and PET scans can detect these amyloid plaques, PET scans potentially could be used in new ways to diagnose AD.

The American College of Radiology Imaging Network and the Alzheimer’s Association are sponsoring the study.

Leading the Loyola team are principal investigators Moises Gaviria, MD, a neuropsychiatrist, and Robert Wagner, MD, medical director of nuclear medicine.

PET scans could decrease the uncertainty of an AD diagnosis and increase confidence in the underlying cause of a patient’s cognitive impairment, leading to earlier counseling and intervention and potentially resulting in improved outcomes.

A PET scan uses a tracer drug injected into a patient and taken up by any amyloid plaques in the brain. Attached to the drug is a slightly radioactive tracer that emits a small quantity of energy in the form of gamma rays. The PET scan reads these gamma rays and produces a detailed image.

According to the press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed and approved the tracer drug to be used in the PET scans.

The nationwide study will enroll 18,488 Medicare beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or dementia of an unknown cause.

The IDEAS study also will examine if introducing PET scans could improve treatment and counseling in the future, and whether the test would improve outcomes by reducing hospital and emergency department admissions.

The goal is for the findings to help the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decide whether to cover PET scans in dementia care expenses.

The use of PET scans has been defended in other studies, including one published in early 2016 in the journal Neuron. This study, titled “PET Imaging of Tau Deposition in the Aging Human Brain,” showed for the first time the progressive stages of AD using PET scans. The findings from this study reinforce the idea that PET scans could be used as a diagnostic and monitoring tool in AD patients.

Recently, IDEAS added three additional studies to the main project: the Amyloid Neuroimaging and Genetics Initiative (ANGI), the Brain Health Registry (BHR) and the Caregivers’ Reactions and Experience: Imaging Dementia — Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (CARE IDEAS).