Tag Archives: Monica Di Luca

“Time matters: A call to prioritize brain health” report launches

Experts call for coordinated public education and research programmes to avert a brain disease crisis

 

Experts are calling for a public health campaign aimed at promoting a ‘brain-healthy lifestyle’ to reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The campaign should support existing health promotion work by emphasising that “what is good for the heart is generally good for the brain,” they urge.

In a report published by the Oxford Health Policy Forum today, they go on to talk about a ‘window of opportunity’ in midlife where individuals may be able to make the biggest difference to their risk of developing neurodegenerative disease or of delaying its progress.

The public education campaign should be underpinned by a coordinated research programme, which is aimed at developing clinical tests for identifying those at risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ‒ before signs and symptoms appear. Research to develop new treatments and other tests to facilitate earlier diagnosis must also continue, and health systems must prepare now for the time when such tests are available.

“People need to understand the risk factors that can affect their brain health and what can be done to maintain it and to help prevent neurodegenerative diseases,” said neurologist Professor Gavin Giovannoni from Queen Mary University of London and Co-chair of the author group of a new evidence-based report, Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health.

The report summarises published evidence and the consensus findings of an international multidisciplinary expert group, including clinicians, researchers and representatives from patient advocacy and professional groups.

“Deterioration in the structure or function of nerve cells (neurodegeneration) begins many years before any symptoms become obvious. This means that diagnosis often occurs at a relatively late stage in the disease course, when substantial damage to nerve cells has already taken place,” explained Dr Alastair Noyce, from Queen Mary University of London and Co-chair of the author group.

“We conclude that there is a ‘10–20-year window of opportunity’ in midlife during which people can reduce the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease or delay its progress. We cannot change our genetic make-up, but we can help reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases ourselves by taking exercise, keeping socially active, eating healthily, reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and keeping our brains active.”

Neurodegenerative diseases are becoming more common as people live longer, but they are not an inevitable consequence of normal ageing. Worldwide, Alzheimer’s disease affects about 50 million people and Parkinson’s disease affects more than 6.1 million people; these numbers are rising.

“Planning for the healthcare structures of the future has to start now if we’re to avert a crisis,” stressed Professor Giovannoni. “Neurodegenerative diseases pose an enormous socioeconomic and individual burden, and this will continue to grow as the population ages.”

The report sets out a series of consensus recommendations, including:

  • improve public understanding of how to protect brain health through lifestyle measures – such as exercise and a healthy diet
  • prepare for the likely increased demand for genetic testing by those wanting to understand their risk of a neurodegenerative disease
  • provide access to available and effective treatments in a timely manner
  • provide accessible holistic care, including prevention information, treatment options and support
  • conduct research to identify accurate and cost-effective tests for disease detection and diagnosis
  • develop, validate and approve tests, tools and apps for monitoring brain health.

Several professional associations and advocacy groups – including European Brain Council, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Parkinson’s UK and European Parkinson’s Disease Association – have endorsed the recommendations

Welcoming the report, Dr Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Evidence shows that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, but this message is yet to hit home with the public. Only a third of people think it’s possible to reduce their risk of dementia, and we must do more to empower people with knowledge about the actions they could take to protect their brain health. Alzheimer’s Research UK wholeheartedly supports the timely and important recommendations of this report.”

Representing the European Brain Council, Professor Monica Di Luca echoed the need for action and collaboration: “The European Brain Council has for years been highlighting the importance and cost of brain diseases. This report strengthens the case for governments to prioritise brain health and to prepare for the challenges that healthcare systems will face as the burden of brain disease continues to increase.”

Time matters: a call to prioritize brain health was launched at the European Health Forum Gastein conference (the ‘Davos’ for Public Health) on Thursday 3 October.

Read the full report HERE.

 

Notes to editor

Lead author and Chair, Professor Gavin Giovannoni, and other members of the author group are available for interview.

Professor Gavin Giovannoni is centre lead for neuroscience and trauma at the Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

Professor Philip Scheltens, a leading expert in Alzheimer’s disease and Co-chair of the report, is based at the Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Netherlands.

Author and Co-chair of the report, Dr Alastair Noyce, is a Clinical Senior Lecturer, at Queen Mary University of London and a Neurology Registrar at Barts. His main research interests are in the area of Parkinson’s disease.

Time matters: a call to prioritize brain is published by Oxford Health Policy Forum CIC, a not-for-profit community interest company registered in England and Wales (Registration number: 10475240).

A full copy of the report is available at www.oxfordhealthpolicyforum.org

Preparation of the report was funded by educational grants from Biogen and F. Hoffmann-La Roche, who had no influence on the content.

 

About neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegeneration is a consequence of disease-related processes in the brain that result in a loss of function of the nervous system.1 Neurodegenerative diseases are long-term progressive conditions that cause a decline in brain health and result in premature age. Age is the strongest risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases,2 and these diseases are becoming more common as people are living longer.

The two most common neurodegenerative diseases are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Some, but not all, neurodegenerative diseases are causes of dementia. Dementia is the fifth highest cause of death and the number of global deaths is predicted to double over the next 20 years.3

The financial cost of neurodegenerative disease to society is considerable, both in terms of direct (e.g. medical) and indirect (e.g. sick leave) healthcare costs and in the significant loss of workforce hours. The global costs of dementia have increased from US$604 billion in 2010 to US$818 billion in 2015.3,4 The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that, by 2030, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be responsible for 1.2% of the total deterioration in health-related quality of life.5

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the most common cause of dementia.6 It involves the progressive loss of specialised cells in the brain (neurons) that affect behaviour, memory and cognition, which significantly and progressively impacts a person’s ability to maintain the activities of daily living.7,8 More than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by AD; worldwide, AD affects about 50 million people.7,8

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is caused when brain cells stop producing ‘dopamine’, a chemical that controls movement.9 Symptoms can include an altered way of walking, a stooped posture, tremors and small handwriting.9 In the later stages it is characterised by balance problems which often result in falls. The number of people diagnosed with PD in the UK is around 145,000; worldwide, PD affects more than 6 million people.10

 

  1. Mattson MP, Magnus T. Ageing and neuronal vulnerability. Nat Rev Neurosci 2006;7:278–94.
  2. Livingston G, Sommerlad A, Orgeta V et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. Lancet 2017;390:2673–734.
  3. Prince M, Wimo A, Guerchet M et al. World Alzheimer report 2015: the global impact of dementia, 2015. Available from: https://www.alz.co.uk/research/world-report-2015 (Accessed 15 January 2019).
  4. Wimo A, Guerchet M, Ali GC et al. The worldwide costs of dementia 2015 and comparisons with 2010. Alzheimers Dement 2017;13:1–7.
  5. World Health Organization. Neurological Disorders. Public health challenges Switzerland: WHO, 2006. Available from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/neurological_disorders_report_web.pdf (Accessed 15 January 2019).
  6. Cummings JL, Cole G. Alzheimer disease. JAMA 2002;287:2335–8.
  7. World Health Organization. Dementia fact sheet, 2017. Available from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia (Accessed 6 February 2019).
  8. Alzheimer’s Research UK. Dementia Attitudes Monitor – Wave 1 Report 2018, 2019. Available from: https://www.dementiastatistics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dementia-Attitudes-Monitor-Wave-1-Report.pdf (Accessed 6 February 2019).
  9. Sveinbjornsdottir S. The clinical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. J Neurochem 2016;139:318–24.
  10. Dorsey ER, Elbaz A, Nichols E et al. Global, regional, and national burden of Parkinson’s disease, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2016. Lancet Neurol 2018;17:939–53.

 

Media relations

Chris Mahony, Interim Faculty Communications Executive (Medicine and Dentistry)

Marketing and Communications Department, Queen Mary University of London

T: 0207 8825315

E: c.mahony@qmul.ac.uk

Event Report: “Brain Research in Europe: Shaping FP9 and Delivering Innovation to the Benefit of Patients” & Brain Mission launch

Last Monday and Tuesday, 23-24 April 2018, EBC held the two-day event “Brain Research in Europe: Shaping FP9 and Delivering Innovation to the Benefit of Patients” at the University Foundation in Brussels. The event was organised in three different sessions: “FP9 and Missions”, “The Value of Innovation” and “European Brain Research: Shifting Gears and Going Global”. The full programme booklet can be found here, and below is a recap of the two fruitful days.

The event aimed to bring together leading healthcare stakeholders and policymakers to address key questions in the domain of research, such as how the upcoming 9th Framework Programme can accelerate brain research across Europe, what measures can be taken in order to stimulate the development of new central nervous system drugs for treating brain disorders, and what can be done to address the concerns of patients.

FP9 & Missions

In view of the upcoming FP9 proposal, a wide range of independent experts provided recommendations on mission oriented research and how to gain the most out of EU-funded innovation programmes.  Recommendations to double the budget of the next Framework Programme have resounded across institutions: The “Lab – Fab – App” report, written under the leadership of Pascal Lamy, the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commissioner for Budget Günther Oettinger. Additionally, Prof. Mariana Mazzucato provided guidance on how research and innovation can address global challenges in the recently released report “Mission-Oriented Research & Innovation in the European Union”. In light of these recommendations, the session “Missions and FP9” aims to facilitate dialogue amongst experts on the mission oriented approach of the European Commission and how the next Framework Programme can boost therapeutic innovation.

Keynote speaker Prof. Andrea Renda kicked-off the first session, giving an insightful presentation on Mission-Oriented Research and Innovation Policy in the EU. He explored EU research as it stands now, and where it could be winning and/or losing. Furthermore, he shared all the different programmes available and supportive of the brain, and called for continued collaboration.

EBC President Prof. Monica Di Luca called for the Brain to be recognised as a Mission, launching the EBC Brain Mission, which calls to ‘understand, fix and enhance’, referring to understanding the brain as the space race of the 21st century. The full Mission can be read HERE.

Newly appointed Director-General of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, Jean-Eric Paquet, addressed the audience, giving insight into what’s ahead as the work to shape the next Framework Programme begins, speculating on how a mission-oriented approach could pan out.

The Value of Innovation

Developing effective treatments to improve the lives of those affected by brain disorders is extremely challenging. Despite decades of publicly and privately funded brain research, there is currently no treatment available to cure a wide range of mental and neurological conditions. What is more, research efforts do not always translate into tangible results for patients. In view of this, and in the light of the high burden that brain disorders impose on European society, the session on “The Value of Innovation” aimed to empower healthcare experts and stakeholders to present their views on issues that hinder therapeutic innovation and discuss potential solutions.

The session was introduced by EBC Treasurer Joke Jaarsma, and the morning began separated into the perspective of various stakeholders: patients, research, regulators and industry. These perspectives were shared by Hilkka Kärkkäinen (President, GAMIAN-Europe), Jacobo Santamarta Barral (Young Person’s Network at the European Multiple Sclerosis Platform), Prof. Sebastian Brandner (UCL Institute of Neurology), Dr. Marisa Papaluca (Senior Scientific Advisor, European Medicines Agency) and Dr. Christoph von der Goltz (Lundbeck).

A panel session followed, bringing in further stakeholder perspectives, with a discussion from payers, industry, researchers and policymakers. The panel was made up of Menno Aarnout (Executive Director, Association Internationale de la Mutualité), Matthias Wismar (Senior Health Policy Analyst, European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies), Nathalie Moll (Director-General, EFPIA), Prof. Colm O’Morain (Past President, Alliance for Biomedical Research in Europe) and Jaroslaw Waligora (Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Alexander Schubert (Executive Director, ECNP) and Margaret Walker (Executive Director, EUFAMI).

European Brain Research: Shifting Gears and Going Global

The third session drew focus to global initiatives and the potentials to increase collaboration at the international level, and aimed to provide an overview of the current global brain research initiatives and to allow experts to present their perspectives on how to further enhance cooperation at global level.

Many initiatives aimed at supporting brain research and improving the allocation of research funds were launched at global level in recent years. These efforts have the potential to significantly strengthen collaboration across disciplines and can therefore make a lasting difference for patients and scientists.

The session began with a welcome from Prof. Patrice Boyer, EBC Vice-President, and went on to an introduction on the global initiatives launched with the support of the European Commission by Dr Karim Berkouk, Acting Head of Unit, Non-communicable diseases and the challenge of healthy ageing, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission.

This continued to examples of existing and potential collaboration, bringing together Dr. Ari Ercole representing the International Initiative for Traumatic Brain Injury Research (InTBIR) – concrete example of existing international collaboration and the work being done at the global level; Prof. Philippe Ryvlin, Co-Chair, Joint Task Force for Epilepsy Advocacy Europe, International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) – exploring why epilepsy should be the next global initiative and the value of international collaboration and expanding to a more global level; and Dr. Helena Ledmyr, Head of Development & Communications, International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF)– introducing INCF as an organization and platform for neuroinformatics and the value of international cooperation.

Heads of global networks then gave insight into the scope and function of their organizations and how they are collaborating and cooperating both across Europe and worldwide. This included Prof. Philippe Amouyel, Chair, EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), Chris Ebell, Executive Director, Human Brain Project and Dr. Hella Lichtenberg, Senior Scientific Officer, ERA-NET Neuron.

The session was summed up and concluded by Prof. Wolfgang Oertel, EBC Vice-President, highlighting the vital need for collaboration on the brain.

We would like to thank everyone that was in attendance of the two-day event and for helping provide fruitful discussion.

Addressing the major burden on those living with brain conditions and the costs for European society requires an intensified research effort and the creation of novel solutions. The target of our proposed Brain Mission will be to decrease this enormous burden through better understanding of the physiology of the brain and disease states, relevant prevention strategies, as well as more generally, an increased awareness of the brain and its diseases.

Continued commitment to basic neuroscience research has advanced our understanding of the nervous system, with Europe successfully leading this effort designed to increase our understanding of the brain, as well as the practical and clinical application of this knowledge.

Engagement of the scientific and clinical community at all levels is required in order for the European population to benefit from discoveries and for advances in basic neuroscience to be translated into new diagnostic tools and treatments for brain disorders.

It is imperative now for the brain community to step up and call for the continued recognition of the brain and for the recognition of its importance in the upcoming Framework Programme (FP9). Help spread the Brain Mission far and wide and let’s continue to commit ourselves to advocating for the brain and for the 179 million people across Europe living with brain disorders.

 

See: BRAIN MISSION

EBC Vice President Monica Di Luca receives award from Mons University

Congratulations to Monica Di Luca, Vice President of the European Brain Council and Past President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies.  On 31st March 2017, Prof Di Luca received from the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Mons, in Belgium, the degree “Docteur Honoris Causa” for her research on the brain’s ability to modulate its synaptic activity in the context of diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Honoris Causa is an honorary title awarded by UMons to a personality who has made a significant contribution to his or her field of expertise or to a particular institution.

Also awarded the degree honoris causa alongside Prof Di Luca were the Dutch architect Francine Houben , and her compatriot Bert Meijer, a supramolecular chemical expert, as well as the French translator Jean-François Menard, the British economist Robert Skidelsky and the French sociologist Vincent De Gaulejac.