How Brain Scans Might Change the Way Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer's

A new test can identify the disorder's early stages. How will it help patients?

The clinical trial slated to begin this month could help quell the controversy if its results are auspicious. In that study, Sperling, Karlawish and investigators at 60 U.S. medical centers aim to screen 3,000 healthy senior citizens to identify 1,000 amyloid-positive individuals who will receive either a drug therapy for Alzheimer's called solanezumab or a placebo for three years.

Before anybody slides into a PET scanner, however, participants will be prescreened for mood, depression and anxiety to ensure they are capable of “handling uncertainty and, potentially, what could be construed as bad news if they learn that they are amyloid-positive on imaging,” Karlawish says. “There will be some people who are not, frankly, allowed to go forward.”

With any luck, the trial's results, which are not expected until 2018, will confirm that solanezumab could become a viable treatment in the future, as well as help doctors decide whether it makes sense to get an early look at Alzheimer's today.

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This article was originally published with the title "Scanning for Alzheimer's."

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