Publications & Posters

Comparison of plasma and neuroimaging biomarkers to predict cognitive decline in non-demented memory clinic patients

Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy | May 16, 2024

Mendes AJ, Ribaldi F, Lathuiliere A, Ashton NJ, Zetterberg H, Abramowicz M, Scheffler M, Assal F, Garibotto V, Blennow K, Frisoni GB.

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2024



Plasma biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, neurodegeneration, and neuroinflammation are ideally suited for secondary prevention programs in self-sufficient persons at-risk of dementia. Plasma biomarkers have been shown to be highly correlated with traditional imaging biomarkers. However, their comparative predictive value versus traditional AD biomarkers is still unclear in cognitively unimpaired (CU) subjects and with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).


Plasma (Aβ42/40, p-tau181, p-tau231, NfL, and GFAP) and neuroimaging (hippocampal volume, centiloid of amyloid-PET, and tau-SUVR of tau-PET) biomarkers were assessed at baseline in 218 non-demented subjects (CU = 140; MCI = 78) from the Geneva Memory Center. Global cognition (MMSE) was evaluated at baseline and at follow-ups up to 5.7 years. We used linear mixed-effects models and Cox proportional-hazards regression to assess the association between biomarkers and cognitive decline. Lastly, sample size calculations using the linear mixed-effects models were performed on subjects positive for amyloid-PET combined with tau-PET and plasma biomarker positivity.


Cognitive decline was significantly predicted in MCI by baseline plasma NfL (β=-0.55), GFAP (β=-0.36), hippocampal volume (β = 0.44), centiloid (β=-0.38), and tau-SUVR (β=-0.66) (all p < 0.05). Subgroup analysis with amyloid-positive MCI participants also showed that only NfL and GFAP were the only significant predictors of cognitive decline among plasma biomarkers. Overall, NfL and tau-SUVR showed the highest prognostic values (hazard ratios of 7.3 and 5.9). Lastly, we demonstrated that adding NfL to the inclusion criteria could reduce the sample sizes of future AD clinical trials by up to one-fourth in subjects with amyloid-PET positivity or by half in subjects with amyloid-PET and tau-PET positivity.


Plasma NfL and GFAP predict cognitive decline in a similar manner to traditional imaging techniques in amyloid-positive MCI patients. Hence, even though they are non-specific biomarkers of AD, both can be implemented in memory clinic workups as important prognostic biomarkers. Likewise, future clinical trials might employ plasma biomarkers as additional inclusion criteria to stratify patients at higher risk of cognitive decline to reduce sample sizes and enhance effectiveness.