Hope is a tricky thing. It can be difficult to decide what to hope for, how much emotion to invest in that hope and how to transfer hope from frustrated outcomes to new ones. After all, the psychological cost of fallen hopes is high—especially so when those hopes are for significant progress towards the treatment or cure of a life-stealing disease. A disease like Alzheimer’s.
The field of Alzheimer’s disease research has taken some hits lately, in the form of some disappointingly failed clinical trials of leading treatment candidates. And these failures come on the heels of years of hopeful developments; in particular, finding biomarkers for the disease (amyloid and tau) that seemed promising as drug targets. At least one major pharmaceutical giant has withdrawn from Alzheimer’s drug development entirely.
Human bodies (and especially human brains) are complicated things. The pathways to disease within those bodies and brains can be diverse and elusive. Not everyone takes the same road to Alzheimer’s symptoms. Not everyone responds the same way to interventions.
Alzheimer’s disease appears to be yet another example in which personalized medicine, relying on individual genetics, fine-grained diagnosis and customized treatments, will be a necessary component of the way forward. It is unlikely that a “magic bullet” treatment will materialize to answer all our hopes in one satisfying moment of discovery.
But this frustration is a two-sided coin, for indeed the very possibility of making incremental progress on the basis of personalized, custom medicine was dim or completely dark just a handful of years ago. Absent a dramatic and triumphant cure-for-all, any progress at all was challenging to imagine. This piece by Dr. Richard Isaacson, Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill-Cornell, captures both the delicacy of hope and the ongoing, increasingly nuanced campaign to gain ground against Alzheimer’s disease:
There is hope, in other words. In fact, there are many distinct hopes—as many hopes as there are avenues of research. And there is continuing progress. That progress takes the often slow and painstaking form of a large puzzle, pieced together an edge here, a corner there, focusing on recognizable targets as they makes themselves visible. Placing hope in such a process exercises different muscles of the soul than hope in, say, a polio vaccine. And, in the meantime, what are we to do?
We address those items over which we may exert some present-day control. You know, mundane and important things like exercise and diet. We focus on early detection and slowing the progression of symptoms. Undramatic and workmanlike measure such as these are as worthy of our attentions—and hopes—as they are easily dismissed.
And we keep informed, seeking trends and sustained movement, as opposed to magic bullets. We assign hope in proportion to the preponderance of evidence, the consensus of research. Measured hopes for hopeful measures.
Neurologics is proud to be a part of the emerging wave of personalized, custom programs for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Each Neurologics client begins their program with a personal Brain Map, one that visualizes specific brain activities impacted by disease, in real time, as the brain thinks. The Map points the way to a customized neuroengineering program, one client at a time. Our programs have a strong track record of results for memory, learning ability and IQ. Contact Neurologics today to learn more. We hope to speak with you soon!