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RMADC Hosts Special Meeting with Rep. Mike Coffman

Joining forces with local Alzheimer's Association volunteers


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 presentation.

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 Alzheimer’s Act

·         co-sponsoring the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA)

Mattye Pollard-Cole, 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.

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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.

Huntington Potter, 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 dementia care.

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 psychological support.    

Neurologists Samantha 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.

Earlier 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.[HC1] 

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.

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U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, right, with dem​entia researchers Drs. Huntington Potter, Glenn Simon and Christina Coughlan.