Could treating one disease lead to another? The possible link between prostate cancer treatment and dementia

The possible link between prostate cancer treatment and dementia is a topic that has been making quite a few headlines over the last several weeks. According to a recent Penn Medicine News Release that seems to have started the conversation, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that “a common hormone therapy [used] to treat prostate cancer may double a man’s risk of dementia, regardless of his age.”

Last year, lead author Kevin T. Nead, MD, MPhil, a resident in the department of Radiation Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues discovered an association between Alzheimer’s disease and androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) — a treatment for prostate cancer that is used in over half a million men in the U.S. However, the new findings, published in JAMA Neurology, lead them to believe that the neurocognitive risk involved is actually broader than just Alzheimer’s.

As stated in the news release, “while the findings do not prove that ADT increases the risk of dementia, the analysis comparing the medical records of almost 9,500 prostate cancer patients who received ADT vs. those who did not strongly supports that possibility.”

“We have two papers here showing very similar outcomes and magnitude of risk, which I think supports the case for this to be studied prospectively,” explained Dr. Nead.

This raises the question – do the benefits of ADT outweigh the risk of dementia?

In a recent feature in NY Times Well, Dr. Nead addressed this question explaining that this is a discussion that patients should have with their physician. “This study is important and urges us toward future research, but I don’t think it should impact clinical practice,” he said.

Read the full Penn Medicine News Release here.

Several other local and national news outlets have also picked up the story including




CNDR’s 2016 Marian S. Ware Research Retreat: “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery”

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR) hosted its annual Marian S. Ware Research Retreat. This year, the theme of the event was “Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery” and was organized by Kurt Brunden, PhD, Director of Drug Discovery and Research Professor at CNDR.

Presenters included David M. Holtzman, MD of Washington University School of Medicine and Laura Volpicelli-Daley, PhD of University of Alabama, Birmingham, as well as industry representatives, Richard Ransohoff, MD of Biogen, Inc., and Mark Forman, MD, PhD of Merck & Co., Inc., in addition to several postdoctoral researchers from Penn.

Throughout the day, guests were invited to browse the nearly 50 neurodegenerative disease research related posters on display for the annual poster session. The event concluded with awards given to the top three posters of the day.

First Place

Title: “alpha-Tubulin Tyrosination and CLIP- 170 Phosphorylation Regulate the Initiation of Dynein-Driven Transport in Neurons
Presenter: Jeffrey Nirschl
Authors: Jeffrey J. Nirschl, Maria M. Magiera, Jacob E. Lazarus, Carsten Janke, Erika L. F. Holzbaur

Second Place:
Title: “Monitoring Conformational Changes in alpha-Synuclein During Aggregation and Small Molecule Treatment”
Presenter: Conor Haney
Authors: Conor M. Haney, John J. Ferrie, Tiberiu Mihaila, Marcello Chang, Jimin Yoon, E. James Petersson

Third Place:
Title: “Distinct Pathological a-Synuclein Strains in Glial Cytoplasmic Inclusions and Lewy Bodies”
Presenter: Chao Peng
Authors: Chao X. Peng, Ronald Gathagan, Dustin J. Covell, Anna Stieber, Coraima Medellin, John L. Robinson, Bin Zhang, Kelvin C. Luk, John Q. Trojanowski, Virginia M.-Y. Lee


Presentations* (click to download):

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-05-38-pm screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-2-06-14-pm

*Please note: Not all presentations can be shared online due to unpublished data.

Senator Collins, Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Aging Committee, visits Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, Senator Susan Collins, the United States Senator for Maine and the Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, stopped by the University of Pennsylvania to visit the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR).

During her private tour of the CNDR lab, led by CNDR Director, Virginia M.-Y. Lee, PhD, MBA, and Co-director, John Q. Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Sen. Collins was given the opportunity to examine frozen brain slices to compare the physical differences between a normal brain and an Alzheimer’s brain – the Alzheimer’s brain being significantly smaller in size. Drs. Lee and Trojanowski also showed Sen. Collins brain scans and images under the microscope to show the appearance of plaques, tangles, and Lewy bodies, all of which are key evidence of neurodegenerative disease.

Following the tour, Sen. Collins sat down to talk with Drs. Lee and Trojanowski, Perry Clark, Institute on Aging External Advisory Board Chair and avid Alzheimer’s advocate, and his wife Elaine, and Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Deputy Director of the Institute on Aging. Senator Collins, who also serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force, had several questions about the research taking place not only here at Penn, but throughout the field of aging-related neurodegeneration in general. They discussed topics ranging from genetics to potential therapies to the growing need for additional funding.

“As the founder and Co-chair of the Senate Alzheimer’ssencollins-quote Task Force, working to increase federal funding to fight Alzheimer’s has long been one of my top priorities. Approximately 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today, and that number is soaring as our overall population grows older and lives longer,” explained Senator Collins.

“In addition to the human toll, Alzheimer’s costs the U.S. an estimated $236 billion a year, including $160 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. With adequate funding to support the exciting research underway, we can achieve a world where Alzheimer’s can be treated effectively, cured, or prevented.”

Sen. Collins was especially intrigued with the level of collaboration in which Penn partakes with other research centers across the country. She thanked the group not only for their work in research, but also for their advocacy, saying it makes her very hopeful and excited for future advances in the field. “This is one of the most extensive and impressive briefings I’ve had,” she said.

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Friends of the National Institute on Aging (NIA)’s Annual Update on NIA Scientific Advances

Earlier this month, the Friends of the National Institute on Aging (FoNIA) participated in their annual NIA Scientific Advances Update to discuss the progress of ongoing and upcoming research projects in the field of aging. Topics include the basic biology of aging, neuroscience, behavioral and social research, and geriatrics and clinical gerontology. Richard J. Hodes, MD, Director of NIA, presented this year’s updates (slides provided below) and joined in the open discussion with FoNIA members and leadership from each NIA division. NIA Deputy Director, Marie A. Bernard, MD, was also in attendance.

“These meetings are a really great opportunity for us to hear about the latest advances in
aging research across the board and to discuss future initiatives with NIA leadership,”
explained Kathy Jedrziewski, PhD, Chair of FoNIA and Deputy Director of Penn’s
Institute on Aging.


The group will meet again early next year to discuss the NIA budget. In addition, FoNIA meets annually with National Institutes of Health Director, Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They also host an annual educational briefing on the Hill.


Richard Hodes, MD, Director of NIA (left), Francis Collins, MD, PhS, Director of NIH (center), and Marie A. Bernard, MD, Deputy Director of NIA (right), with members of FoNIA at their last meeting.

For more information, visit:

FoNIA is a broad-based coalition of aging, disease, research, and patient groups that supports the mission of the NIA. FoNIA activities include advocating on behalf of the NIA and increasing public awareness about NIA’s work and its tremendous impact in the field of aging research.