Thanks in part to research conducted by the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, a major advance in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease (AD) was made on April 6, 2012 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Amyvid, a radioactive agent that allows clinicians to determine the amount of amyloid plaques in an individual's brain.
These PET scans demonstrate how Amyvid can show the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain. The images show varying levels of plaque and the corresponding conclusions in regards to Alzheimer's disease diagnosis that a doctor or researcher may reach upon looking at them.
Prior to this recent approval, the only way doctors could measure the presence and amount of amyloid plaque, a major indicator of AD, was by autopsying the brain after death. "Amyloid PET scanning represents a significant advance in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," said Stephen Salloway, MD, MS, director of Neurology and the Memory and Aging Program at Butler; and lead researcher for several ongoing research studies at Butler involving Amyvid. "This new diagnostic tool will not only help us in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease with more accuracy, but it will be instrumental in selecting patients and monitoring disease progression in upcoming prevention trials."
Amyvid will be used as an additional tool when evaluating individuals who may have AD, in addition to the current use of cognitive tests and history taking. The Amyvid test involves an injection of the agent, followed by a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to image the brain. Amyvid binds to the amyloid plaque present in the brain showing how much amyloid plaque is present on the PET scan. Little to no plaque makes AD unlikely, while a high presence of amyloid plaque indicates significant AD pathology.
The approval of Amyvid is likely the first of many similar agents to be considered by the FDA, providing AD clinicians and researchers with the ability to better diagnose patients and conduct research studies of new treatments with more accuracy.