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Blood test shows promise for identifying risk for Alzheimer’s symptoms

A blood test may be able to identify individuals at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, according to research presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference.

The results came as part of the AHEAD study.

Joshua D. Grill

“The goal of this study is to stop Alzheimer’s disease before it begins — delaying or preventing symptoms in people at increased biological risk,” Joshua D. Grill, PhD, recruitment unit co-chair for the Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials Consortium, which helps oversee the AHEAD Study Recruitment and Retention Working Group, told Healio Psychiatry. “The latest advance is to use a blood test to improve the efficiency of identifying people who are appropriate for the study and excluding people with low likelihood of qualifying. This saves time and money and avoids unnecessary burden on participants unlikely to qualify.”

The study incorporates a blood test called PrecivityAD, developed by CN Diagnostics. Thus far, the test has shown 81% accuracy, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.87, for prediction of amyloid level on a positron-emission tomography scan among individuals without AD symptoms. The blood test is set to be used in the AHEAD Study, a clinical trial seeking to prevent AD symptoms that is enrolling individuals as young as age 55 years.

Results presented at the conference suggested the test can pinpoint specific amyloid proteins in blood plasma and may offer a way to assess risk for amyloid build-up in the brain. Researchers noted that screening blood tests may significantly speed up clinical trial enrollment. The AHEAD Study has begun enrollment of individuals aged 55 to 80 years to test whether removing amyloid plaques in the brain can delay or prevent the onset of AD symptoms. Researchers plan to enroll 1,165 participants from North America, with 75 research centers across the U.S. and Canada.

“The tests are extremely valuable for researchers, helping us answer questions and test promising medications more quickly,” Grill said. “Someday, if these drugs prove capable of delaying or preventing AD, we may use blood tests to screen everyone at certain ages to identify those people who need these treatments to maintain their cognitive function and never get AD.”