Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Advances Prevention, Treatment

Marwan Sabbagh, MD
(Photo by Jérôme BrunetJBP)


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“People assume that nothing exciting or hopeful is happening in Alzheimer’s disease research,” says Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Director of Translational Research Marwan Sabbagh, MD. “That’s just not true. More progress is being made in degenerative brain disease now than has been made in recent years.”

The center recently was awarded an NIH Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center grant for an exploratory Alzheimer’s disease research center. “These grants are very competitive, prestigious and difficult to get,” says Dr. Sabbagh, who holds the Camille and Larry Ruvo Endowed Chair for Brain Health. “It will provide $3.3 million over three years.” The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health also applied for renewal of a $10 million NIH COBRE grant.

“Research on the infrastructure growth side has been very robust,” he says. “We have been testing new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, both industry work and our own drugs. We have a research grant for studying the cancer drug lenalidomide for Alzheimer’s disease, and we’re very excited about the idea that cancer drugs could be repurposed for Alzheimer’s.”

The center also is investigating a diagnostic blood test for Alzheimer’s, and a new drug, aducanumab, a monoclonal antibody, is now awaiting FDA approval.


In addition, he says, at least a dozen trials are underway for Alzheimer’s, related to prevention, mild cognitive impairment and full dementia. “You name it, we’re doing it. It’s very exciting! Anything new in Alzheimer’s disease we either have tested already or are going to test.”

Without prevention, it is anticipated that by 2050, an estimated 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s. “We’re very proud of our initiatives in prevention,” Dr. Sabbagh says. “We started the first-of-its-kind Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Clinic in the United States. Maria Shriver’s group reached out to us with this idea, and the program launched on June 18. In its first 24 hours, 400 women signed up.”

Women are twice as likely as men to have Alzheimer’s, he says. “We are hoping to identify risks, both genetic and environmental, and mitigate them,” Dr. Sabbagh says.

Science suggests that up to 40 percent of dementia cases could be prevented through blood pressure management, cognitive stimulation and physical exercise, Dr. Sabbagh says. “The science is really solid and coalescing around specific recommendations. We know that for a patient in her mid-70s who has forgetfulness, the changes in her brain started one to two decades before. Forgetfulness is the end of the disease, not the beginning. We want people to engage in their brain health starting in their 30s, 40s and 50s.”


The Center for Brain Health also is a national center of excellence for Parkinson’s and progressive supranuclear palsy.

In light of all of these promising studies, Dr. Sabbagh says that he would like his colleagues to know that Cleveland Clinic is deeply invested in brain health research. “The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, both on main campus and in Nevada, is among the biggest groups of research in the entire Cleveland Clinic health system.”

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