The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) has awarded Dr. Neil Vasdev a grant to "support the development of tools to advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease by tracking its progression, improving patient selection for clinical trials, and monitoring patient response to drugs in trials."
Translation of an Optimized PET Radiopharmaceutical for Imaging Tau Pathology in Alzheimer's Patients
The invention of imaging agents used in positron emission tomography (PET) to detect amyloid plaques (such as the ADDF-funded Amyvid™ test) led to major breakthroughs in clinical dementia research and drug development. In such studies, radioactive drug molecules (radiopharmaceuticals) are injected and the distributions of those molecules are measured using a PET camera. A similar imaging agent for tau proteins, thought to play an important role in early Alzheimer’s disease, could lead to more breakthroughs by allowing researchers to rapidly identify novel Alzheimer’s drug treatments that engage and modify the tau proteins in the brain. Dr. Vasdev and collaborators from Merck will develop and evaluate a new tau imaging agent in clinical tests.
Tau proteins (named after the Greek letter T) are commonly associated with chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and traumatic brain injuries. Positron Emission Tomography (PET), a non-invasive imaging technology, is used to measure disruptive tau accumulations in the brain. Currently there are few available PET tracers that can be used to measure tau concentrations. But, according to Dr. Eric Hostetler, Executive Director of the Translational Imaging Biomarkers at Merck, these PET tracers have limitations that include in some cases unexplained off-target binding i.e., the binding of the PET tracer to a protein other than tau. Nevertheless, Dr. Hostetler believes that tau PET imaging is crucial for AD drug development and that is only a matter of time until an optimized tracer for tau pathology is discovered. Dr. Hostetler was the guest speaker at a seminar series organized by the MGH Gordon Center and his lecture was titled “Tau PET Imaging in Drug Development: Opportunities, Progress, and Future Directions”.
About the Gordon Lecture Series:
The Gordon Center for Medical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University develops new biomedical imaging technologies used in diagnosis and therapy. In addition to translational research, the Center organizes lectures and symposiums as part of its effort to inspire the public and the scientific community about the latest research topics in medical imaging.