NIH Consortium Takes Aim at Vascular Disease-linked Cognitive Impairment and Dementia

MarkVCID brings team science approach to small vessel disease biomarkers in the brain.

vascular disease
Connecting vascular disorders and dementia - The science of VCID overlaps between blood vessel disorders, including stroke, and cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., NINDS

To better predict, study, and diagnose small vessel disease in the brain and its role in vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), the National Institutes of Health has launched MarkVCID, a consortium designed to accelerate the development of new and existing biomarkers for small vessel VCID.

The five-year program, developed by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), consists of seven research groups across the United States working together via a coordinating center based at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. A kick-off meeting for the consortium was held immediately prior to the International Stroke Conference 2017 in Houston, Feb. 20-21.

Steven M. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hemorrhagic Stroke Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital will serve as the project leader for the MarkVCID Coordinating Center.

“We have brought together a number of outstanding research groups to further develop and validate candidate biomarkers for cerebral small vessel disease,” said Dr. Greenberg. “This will be achieved by identifying and focusing on the most promising biomarkers across the research sites.”

VCID impacts millions of people in the United States, as a part of clinical Alzheimer’s disease and in other diagnoses. Because small vessel VCID progresses over time, it is a prime candidate for treatment. However, the changes that occur are highly difficult to detect, in particular at early stages of the disease when intervention might be most successful.

Currently, individual groups are using several noninvasive biomarker candidates based on MRI scans, fluid analysis, or other physiological measurements. However, it is necessary that they be standardized and validated before they can be applied to clinical trials and eventually everyday settings. The purpose of the consortium is to take candidate biomarkers through these next steps.

“The team-based approach taken by the consortium allows us to study candidate biomarkers across different clinical settings at multiple institutions,” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., program director, NINDS. “Ultimately, we hope to develop a gold standard to identify cerebral small vessel disease early enough to intervene with treatment.”

The second phase of the project, which is expected to begin in about two years and involve the dissemination of those candidates showing the greatest potential to all consortium sites. The goal is to deliver small vessel VCID biomarkers that are ready for phase II and phase III clinical trials.

Dr. Greenberg will receive the William M. Feinberg Award for Excellence in Clinical Stroke at the International Stroke Conference on Feb. 24, and his presentation will include remarks about this consortium.