• By Vivien Williams

Mayo Clinic Minute: Why early detection of Alzheimer’s disease matters

November 2, 2017

Early detection of diseases such as breast cancer is important, because treating tumors before they spread is key to eradicating the disease. But what about Alzheimer's disease, which has no cure? It is worth getting diagnosed early if there's no way to stop it? Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, says yes.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script.

Alzheimer’s disease research has not produced a cure. So why bother with early detection if you can’t do anything about it?

Dr. Petersen says, “We’re learning more and more about the underlying features of the disease ─ what’s actually causing the disease.”

And that, says Dr. Petersen, is why early detection is important. You see, researchers now know that people who develop Alzheimer’s disease have certain clues, such as proteins in their brains, that may be a factor in memory loss later on.

“With our new biomarker techniques, our imaging techniques, our spinal fluid techniques, we can detect the presence of these proteins in living people. That gives us a tremendous advantage to intervene early ─ even when somebody is cognitively normal. Their memory is normal, but they may harbor these proteins early in life. If we can intervene, we may prevent the development of the symptoms down the road.”

Dr. Petersen says the next step is to develop clinical trials.

“Treatment trials that may be more effective, because we’re intervening at the appropriate stage in the disease process.”

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