Between 19-20th March, over 500 delegates came together in the small town of Harrogate in Yorkshire for the annual Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) Conference – a particular highlight in the dementia meeting calendar.
Day 1: From neuroinflammation to the challenges of early diagnosis
It is not often that you are greeted to a scientific conference by video, let alone by a national treasure of Stephen Fry’s standing. It was fitting that his words were some of the first to echo around the spectacular theatre space of the main hall and an inspiring tone was set for the rest of the meeting.
Following an interesting morning session on the topics of Dementia with Lewy Bodies, delegates heard a special a keynote lecture by Prof Philip Scheltens from Amsterdam University Medical Centre. Prof Scheltens gave a historical overview on the development of dementia diagnostics, advocating the use of early biological markers to aid investigation of disease mechanism and increase efficiency in clinical trial patient recruitment.
The topic of the keynote lent itself well to the lively debate in the subsequent panel discussion, addressing the benefits and challenges of early diagnosis, especially given the paucity of disease-modifying treatments currently available. A regular feature of dementia meetings, the debate turned to the role of amyloid-beta in the Alzheimer’s disease pathway and, in this case, its utilisation as a diagnostic marker predicting progression to dementia. As many individuals with positive amyloid-beta PET scans do not go on to development dementia, it would be important to inform the public on this distinction between Alzheimer’s disease with and without dementia, in order not to mislead in diagnosis. Nevertheless, panellists were all in agreement that a plethora of diagnostic tools would be advantageous if accurate and accessible dementia diagnosis was to become a reality in the future.