Medical researchers from the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center at
CU Anschutz and volunteers from the Alzheimer’s Association meet with U.S. Rep.
Mike Coffman, far right, to discuss federal support of dementia programs.
The Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center (RMADC) collaborated
with the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to host an Alzheimer’s
disease advocacy session with Rep.
Mike Coffman, bringing together citizen advocates who lobby for government
funding for Alzheimer’s disease and medical researchers whose work is advanced
by that funding.
The meeting on July 2, 2018, was notable because it brought
together constituents from Coffman’s U.S. House Sixth District associated with
the Alzheimer’s Association and medical researchers from the RMADC at CU
Anschutz, also located in the sixth district in Aurora. Each side has met independently
with the congressman before, but this was the first time they have made a joint
The Alzheimer’s Association trains volunteers how to lobby
government officials at all levels. Usually these citizen lobbyists encourage
lawmakers to fund research and care for the growing epidemic associated with
Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases.
The goal of the meeting was to emphasize to Rep. Coffman the
importance of three measures before Congress this year:
$425 million in increased funding for
Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
co-sponsoring the BOLD Infrastructure for
co-sponsoring the Palliative Care and Hospice
Education and Training Act (PCHETA)
the Alzheimer’s Association ambassador in Rep. Coffman’s district, spoke about
each of the measures and explained why she and her local Alzheimer’s Impact
Movement (AIM) team members, Bob Epper
and Deb Wells, lobby the congressman.
All have taken care of a parent or spouse through the end stages of some form
of dementia, a common denominator among association volunteers. Also attending
from the association was Coral Cosway,
director of public policy and advocacy.
Faculty from the RMADC and Department of Neurology explained
how, if passed, each of the measures would advance their work at the university
in dementia research and clinical care.
PhD, director of the RMADC, explained how the RMADC would expand dementia
research if the NIH receives more Alzheimer’s funding. Such research is
essential if we are to avert the 2050 projected $1 Trillion annual cost to Medicare
and Medicaid. Potter also told the group
that research into the drug Leukine® continues to move forward at the
university. Leukine® was originally developed for stimulating white blood cell
production in cancer patients and is currently being investigated at the RMADC
for treating mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Jonathan Woodcock, MD,
RMADC clinical director, thanked Rep. Coffman for co-sponsoring the BOLD Act,
and spoke about how patient care would be improved if dementias were treated as
a public health concern. He said this would drive more people to get diagnosed
earlier, which would ultimately translate to trillions of dollars saved on
Rep. Coffman has also co-sponsored the PCHETA Act, and Benzi Kluger, MD, thanked him for this
support. Kluger, director of the Neuropalliative Care Clinic at UCHealth, said
that PCHETA would fund training for more care providers at all levels as the
demand for palliative care expands. Palliative care provides relief for those
suffering from chronic illnesses and includes nursing, social work and
Holden, MD, and Christina Vaughan,
MD, were also on the medical panel.
CU Anschutz Chancellor
Don Elliman welcomed the Alzheimer’s Association advocates and thanked them
for their passion and commitment to the dementia epidemic. Also attending on
behalf of the university were Sue
Starkey, chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents; John Reilly, MD, Dean of the School of
Medicine; and Ken Tyler, MD, chair
of the Department of Neurology.
this year, Coffman introduced the MIND Act of 2018, which would establish research in
Alzheimer’s disease through the Department of Veterans Affairs. This bill has
been encouraged by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, because people with Down
syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease brain pathology by age 30-40. The Global
Down Syndrome Foundation works very closely with the RMADC, often in
collaboration with the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome.
During his visit, Coffman also toured the Potter Lab at the
RMADC, where researchers are investigating myriad questions about different
forms of dementia. An example is a study focused on Alzheimer’s disease and problems
with how the brain uses glucose, which is sometimes called Type 3 Diabetes.
Researchers are also studying biomarkers related to inflammation and how they may
shed light on brain degeneration.
Rep. Mike Coffman, right, with dementia researchers Drs. Huntington Potter,
Glenn Simon and Christina Coughlan.