Sen. Menendez Praises Rutgers Alzheimer’s Research

By Michael Hill

It’s a hard subject for Sen. Bob Menendez — his mother’s 18-year battle with the memory-ravaging Alzheimer’s disease.

“And there were times when I wondered whether she would recognize me the next time that I walked into the room,” he said.

New Jersey’s senior senator came to Rutgers to tour the Neuroscience and Cell Biology Department where researchers — led by Dr. Federico Sesti — say they’ve found a way to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in its early stages.

“This is the learning curve of a mouse that is being treated with the drug,” Sesti said during a presentation.

Researchers have been applying the FDA approved drug SPRYCEL — used to treat leukemia — to lab mice with traumatic brain injury.

“I have reason to believe that if this drug works with traumatic brain injury that it will also work with Alzheimer’s. First of all because the mechanism is the same, essentially, and we already have preliminary evidence, and not only us, but other labs in the country,” said Sesti.

The doctor says the research needs clinical trials with humans and is about 10 years away from potential FDA approval. The senator applied the possibilities.

“To be able to have had a pharmacological approach that would have arrested the disease and given her a lot better quality of life, save a lot of money to Medicare and family and whatnot, and the consequences of the quality of life she would have lived without having the disease progress is very dramatic,” he said.

The senator called the work a beacon of hope and urged the federal government to reverse the flat-line funding of 10 years for Alzheimer’s research, resulting in a 25 percent drop in purchasing power.

“Most of all, we are at risk of losing the next big breakthrough,” Menendez said.

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, the personal stories from family to family sound awfully familiar. And so do the cries for help, for more funding from Congress and from elsewhere so biomedical scientists can do the research to lead to the breakthroughs that could end the suffering.