UC Health is implementing cutting-edge screening tools for Alzheimer’s disease in an effort to offer patients access to therapies and treatments as early as possible.
The project is led by UC Memory Disorders Center, located in the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. It’s partnering with Cognetivity Neurosciences, a leading artificial intelligence health care technology company, to implement a cognitive assessment tool called CognICA in a clinical setting.
This tool enables primary care and other specialty providers to screen patients who may be at risk for cognitive impairment, including older adults and spine surgery patients. Those who screen positive will receive a referral to UC Health geriatricians for further evaluation and diagnosis.
The hope is this new tool will make it easier to detect these diseases in the early stages when treatments are most effective, according to Dr. Rhonna Shatz, a physician-researcher at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.
“This collaboration with Cognetivity, a leader in rapid cognitive screening, will empower our primary care and specialty providers to smartly detect cognitive decline at its early stages and enable early intervention, which we hope will lead to lower mortality and morbidity rates,” added Shatz, considered national leader in the detection and treatment of memory disorders.
CognICA will be one of the tools used by UC Health to identify patients eligible for LECANEMAB, a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in July.
LECANEMAB, also known as Leqembi, helps a patient’s immune system target and reduce amyloid proteins in the brain. Amyloid proteins, specifically amyloid beta, form clumps that contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The disease-modifying treatment aims to preserve a patient’s cognitive function and independence, helping those with early-stage Alzheimer’s potentially maintain a higher quality of life, said Shatz, who also serves as medical director of the UC Memory Disorders Center. She described this new therapy and other pathology-specific dementia treatments as “(catalyzing) a sea change in health system infrastructure,” including awareness of the importance of early detection of cognitive change.
“Our team at the UC Memory Disorders Center is proud to be leading the way in this area,” she added.
The UC Memory Disorders Center sees about 3,800 patients each year at its Clifton and West Chester campuses. That includes more than 600 patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
At first, UC Health will offer LECANEMAB to a small number of existing patients who meet certain eligibility requirements. However, the goal is to offer access to all eligible patients in the region, Shatz said. To do so, UC Health plans to partner with primary care providers and community health systems to expand access to the treatment.
The Alzheimer’s Network for Treatment and Diagnostics will monitor the LECANEMAB patients to help drive innovation in the delivery of care for patients with various types of dementia.