Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a “rock-star” Alzheimer’s researcher, looked very happy during an appearance at Leslie Ann Crozier‘s Triumph Over Alzheimer’s 2019 International Forum and Dinner in Dallas on Tuesday, October 22. That very day, it seems, news reports had circulated about the surprising early-trial success of a new Alzheimer’s disease drug called aducanumab. The reports were said to be surprising because aducanumab targets something called amyloid proteins — it’s believed they help “cause” Alzheimer’s — and earlier tests of amyloid-targeting drugs had failed to succeed.
“The [financial] press has led you to believe that amyloids don’t matter, and that’s not true,” Tanzi said during a discussion with Dr. Michael Hayden at the fundraiser, which was held at the George W. Bush Institute. “I think this will reinvigorate interest in amyloid drugs. It’s good news. It will get the media off attacking amyloids.”
The comments by Tanzi (a former keyboard player for the Aerosmith rock group) regarding the amyloid controversy underscored the fact that Alzheimer’s research is still in its infancy, with competing theories about its causes and treatments. The field is taking on more urgency, however, because of the increasing prevalence of the disease. Hayden and Tanzi, who were introduced at the event by Dr. Roger Rosenberg, pointed out that more than one in three people will develop Alzheimer’s by age 85, and that the disease already is killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
The sold-out gathering of 250 at the Bush Institute was a testament to interest in the deadly disease — and to Leslie Ann’s Triumph Over Alzheimer’s Foundation, which is focused on and benefits Alzheimer’s research and prevention. Attended by the likes of Lee Bailey, Barbara and Stan Levenson, Gail Corder Fischer, Carol Seay, Jimmy Westcott, Laurie Harrison, Pete Delkus, Billie Leigh Rippey, Connie and Denny Carreker, and BvB Dallas members (Jenny Deely, Kara Kirkby and Holley Caldwell) the event featured a cocktail reception, a dinner, and a discussion with actress and mental health advocate Mariel Hemingway, in addition to the forum with the scientists.
During the reception, Mariel said she’d met Leslie Ann in New York this past spring at an event presented by The Carlyle Group, the giant private-equity firm. Mariel has long had an interest in mental and emotional health issues, she said — “any kind of brain issue … it’s all related.” (Her grandfather, writer Ernest Hemingway, and her sister, supermodel Margaux Hemingway, both committed suicide.) She speaks on mental/emotional health topics about 12 times a year, she added, and has been to Dallas several times, including to appear in “a couple of plays here back in the ’80s.”
Mariel was in the audience for the forum, where Hayden and Tanzi said there’s reason for hope and optimism in Alzheimer’s research, despite the increasing incidence of the disease. There may be blood tests soon to detect the “plaques” — they form when protein pieces called beta-amyloids clump together in the brain — that are suspects in causing cell death and tissue loss in Alzheimer’s patients, Tanzi said. That will help detect the disease much earlier, before the brain begins degenerating. “We’ve been treating patients way too late,” he said.
Added Hayden: “Hopefully, Alzheimer’s will be treated soon like cardiovascular disease.”
In the meantime, Tanzi noted, there are things you can do to lower your risk for Alzheimer’s. His six-point SHIELD mantra recommends that you get at least eight hours of Sleep; Handle stress; Interact with others to prevent loneliness; Exercise; Learn new things; and focus on a good Diet. Tanzi recommends the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes the importance of fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Once everything was added up, the 2019 fundraiser netted a record total of $170,000, Leslie Ann and her Event Co-Chair Katherine Wynne said. The money will be used to provide Hayden and Tanzi with grants of $75,000 apiece, and Rosenberg with a $10,000 grant. This year’s total means the Triumph Over Alzheimer’s Foundation has awarded $430,000 in Alzheimer’s research grants since its founding in 2017.
* Photo credit: Sharon Ellman