Q&A with Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

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Question: What is the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, and what does it provide Nevadans?

Answer: Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is a specialized outpatient neurological center focusing on the research, treatment and education of devastating brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, multiple sclerosis and related neuroimmunological disorders, and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. It is the only medical entity in the state to have earned centers of excellence designations for the brain diseases it addresses.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health focuses on maximizing quality of life for patients and their care partners through a three-prong approach:

Diagnosis: With clinical neurology services supplemented by the expertise of neuropsychology and the latest imaging innovations, we provide nuanced diagnoses, giving families deeper insight into brain changes and providing patients the opportunity to participate in relevant research with early access to the newest approaches to treatment.

Ongoing treatment: We empower patients to function as independently as possible through neurological care and rehabilitation including physical, occupational and speech therapy. Behavioral health counseling is also available to maximize quality of life.

Research: Our world-class researchers have conducted more than 114 research studies and have collectively published 975 scientific papers related to brain disorders.

Q: Explain its history.

A: Larry Ruvo — a prominent Las Vegas executive and philanthropist — founded the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in honor of his father, Lou, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. After experiencing the toll of caregiving and the limited support available in Nevada, Larry, alongside his wife, Camille, committed time and resources to establishing a world-class medical center in the heart of Las Vegas so other families wouldn’t have to leave the state for care. In 2009, the Ruvos joined forces with Cleveland Clinic, bringing the global health system to Las Vegas.

Q: Why is this center so important to the state of Nevada?

A: As the third-fastest aging state in the country, with age being the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, Nevada is poised to be hit hard by the Alzheimer’s crisis. With just one neurologist per 1,000 residents, Nevada has been labeled a ‘Neurology Desert’ by the Alzheimer’s Association. We estimate that there are currently more than 49,000 Nevadans living with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia and 84,000 more serving as their unpaid family caregivers. These numbers will continue to grow, further demonstrating the need for a specialized facility equipped to meet the needs of those living with these diseases and the loved ones who care for them.

Charles Bernick

Q: What are some recent advancements in the Alzheimer’s and related dementia space, and what role does the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health take from a local/statewide presence?

A: July 6, 2023, marked a historic moment in the field of Alzheimer’s disease research and treatment as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted traditional approval for the anti-amyloid drug, lecanemab for the treatment of the earliest stages of the disease.

A turning point for patients and researchers alike, lecanemab is the first drug fully approved to slow progression of the disease, not just treat its symptoms. These medications work by sticking to the toxic buildup of amyloid beta protein in the brain, which is linked to the plaques in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s and may cause the disease. The “labeling” of these toxic plaques enables the immune system to gradually remove them from the brain.

The approval of lecanemab signals a new era in Alzheimer’s treatment. We now know we can slow progression of this disease, but to what extent remains to be seen. Currently, lecanemab is approved for those in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, which is a small subset of the more than 6.5 million Americans living with the disease. More research is needed to develop additional treatments that are even more effective and can be used for those living with different stages of the disease.

Building on the proven success of lecanemab in mild Alzheimer’s disease, researchers, including physician-scientists at Cleveland Clinic, are continuing to test lecanmeab to see if it can be effective even earlier in the disease state through the AHEAD trial.

The AHEAD trial is testing lecanemab in patients with normal cognitive function, but at risk for Alzheimer’s due to amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, with the goal of determining if the drug can actually prevent or delay the disease. 

Q: How can readers participate in clinical research such as the AHEAD study?

A: The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is the only trial site for the AHEAD study in the state of Nevada, and is seeking participants who are:

• Ages 55-80

• Healthy, non-smoking

• Have not been diagnosed with AD but may have a higher risk of it due to having a close family member with the disease or have noticed some memory symptoms in themselves

Those interested in participating in or learning more about the AHEAD study can visit, www.healthybrains.org/AHEAD or call 702-701-7944.

Q: What are general tips and good practices to encourage brain health?

A: Staying physically, mentally and socially active is important for healthy aging. Through daily exercise, learning new skills and maintaining healthy relationships, you can help keep your brain sharp. Quality sleep and a balanced diet also play a role in your overall cognitive health.

Q: Beyond Alzheimer’s Disease and other related dementias, what other areas and diseases are treated and studied at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health?

A: Drawing on Larry Ruvo’s experience, we include both patients and their care partners at the center of our care through no-cost family support. We have assisted more than 70,000 care partners to date. In addition to social work, education and other services for families, the center facilitates support groups so that care partners can learn from and encourage one another.

Q: How do you see the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health evolving in the Silver State?

A: Since opening nearly 15 years ago, we’ve been an integral part of healthcare milestones and advancements for our community. Looking ahead, we hope to continue to meet the growing needs of people across our state who are diagnosed with neurological disorders. Through research, we hope to provide earlier access new treatments, and ultimately show that what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t just stay here, it changes the world.

Q: Where can readers learn more?

A: Visit clevelandclinic.org/Nevada


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