Interviews

Ann Romney launches Center for Neurological Diseases

Inside the fight against neurological diseases

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 15, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, R-FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fame, as they say in the song, comes and goes in a minute. You're lucky if you have it.

And she's using it during the minute we have it to try and make the difference in the lives of a lot of people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: A lot of people is right. Try 50 million people.

Mitt Romney joining his wife, Ann, in Boston to launch her Center for Neurological Diseases, something very dear and near to Neil's heart.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Full disclosure here going into this interview: I am on the advisory board for the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases.

And did that not just because I personally like Ann Romney, but because I very much like and aspire to the cause that she's addressing, because regardless of your politics, as Ann and I discovered, this is a disease, and neurological ailments are those that target Republican and Democrats alike. They don't much care about your party affiliation, your social status, your wealth, whether you're in the media or being interviewed by the media.

So, with that, let me begin with Ann Romney.

Ann, welcome.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Thank you.

CAVUTO: This is a little different. And what intrigued me about this center is, it's not just an M.S. center. It's something bigger. Explain.

A. ROMNEY: OK.

Very excited about it, because this is going to be a different approach. We are going to be studying not just multiple sclerosis, but Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and brain tumors. So anything sort of related in the neuroscience area with the brain, we're putting a big -- a big umbrella around all of those disorders, putting it under one roof.

It will be the Ann Romney Neurologic Center. And so we're -- we're excited about it. And what we hope will happen is a global sort of collision of collaboration that we're going to attempt to make with other researchers across this country and across the world that are studying these diseases.

CAVUTO: You know what I have discovered? And you and I have chatted about this before, that a lot of these various research centers, whether it's for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's or ALS, they protect their research and fiefdoms very well.

That's not to disparage them. But how are you going to encourage this, I don't know, charity comradery?

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: Well, it's going to happen with -- we will hold conferences and symposiums.

I think, generally, people in different fields hold those anyway. They hold scientific forums and they exchange papers. And you know that already goes on. But the fact we're broadening this to a much broader group is going to change that dynamic.

I hope -- what I want is to be a catalyst. I want to explode this research, because we're on the cusp of so many breakthroughs. You know, it's so frustrating too look at aging parents that might have Alzheimer's and say, there's nothing we can do. That's about to change.

CAVUTO: And there is this neurological link that people don't appreciate...

A. ROMNEY: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... and that a lot of this stuff, there's the technology to at least catch early, no known cure for pretty much any of these, but there are treatments that could stave off their progression.

A. ROMNEY: There's -- as we know, there's treatments for M.S. There's no treatments at this point for Alzheimer's, for ALS, and there's some for Parkinson's, but limited. And brain tumors, again, they're -- they're spotty. And it's depending on the brain tumor.

But it's a whole science of the brain coming together, researchers under one roof collaborating, finding discoveries, as when you interview the doctor, you will find out...

CAVUTO: Right.

A. ROMNEY: ... how they have already made some significant links in some of these research projects that they're doing.

So for me, again, I just want to be a catalyst. I want -- I want to make a breakthrough. I want to accelerate the research.

CAVUTO: But how tempted were you just because -- you mentioned treatments for M.S., but, again, no cures for M.S. So, people can look at this and say, Ann Romney, given her own experience with M.S., should focus on just that. And you say what?

A. ROMNEY: Well -- well, I say it's -- it's broader than that, and that, you know, finding -- studying Alzheimer's is going to help study M.S. Studying Parkinson's is going to make breakthroughs in Lou Gehrig's.

So, you know, we have to -- we have to start linking some of these molecules that are going on, on the brain and starred studying them, not just in one silo, but it's a broad -- as a broad spectrum.

CAVUTO: I was noticing on the board for this that, does your husband know he's on that board that he's aware of?

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: I am going to let him know.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: And -- and Congressman Joseph Kennedy?

(CROSSTALK)

A. ROMNEY: Right.

CAVUTO: So, you have got a fair and balanced board going.

(CROSSTALK)

A. ROMNEY: We do.

CAVUTO: Meredith Vieira.

A. ROMNEY: Meredith.

CAVUTO: Broadcaster whose husband has been dealing with M.S.

A. ROMNEY: Right.

CAVUTO: So was this by design, that people say it couldn't be called an all Republican board, it's all a Democratic board, it's just a very eclectic, we are all human beings with an affiliation...

(CROSSTALK)

A. ROMNEY: It's a human being -- it's a human being board, with people that care about other human beings, that care about trying to make a difference, and trying to bring some attention, bring some focus, again all of us trying to accelerate whatever we can do to make this, you know, something that we can tackle and try to figure out.

CAVUTO: Yes. This is at Brigham and Women's Hospital in -- in Boston.

A. ROMNEY: In Boston.

CAVUTO: Now, that's not, politically speaking, not exactly a conservatives bastion.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: So I don't mean to be this impolitic or even impolite. But is the Romney name, popular as it is nationally, could that potentially hurt you there?

A. ROMNEY: You know, the good thing -- good news and the bad news about disease is, it's not partisan.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Right.

A. ROMNEY: You know, it just isn't.

And so I think it will not at all, because people recognize that disease hits us all and that we need to be compassionate and caring for all of those that are suffering from this. And it's -- it's so devastating to watch a family member come down with one of these disorders, as I know, having watched my husband just about -- he just -- this is probably the toughest thing in his life is watching me have to suffer.

CAVUTO: Yes. When you were first diagnosed, he stopped everything, and...

A. ROMNEY: He was.

CAVUTO: All over the world to try to get you the best of care.

A. ROMNEY: Oh, he...

(CROSSTALK)

A. ROMNEY: It just affects -- it just doesn't affects the person. It affects the families.

And -- and so many people are affected by multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and brain tumors. I mean, this is -- this is everybody. Everybody out there knows somebody that has one of those disorders. And so...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: ... even marriage breakups and relationship destroyers, these kind of diseases.

A. ROMNEY: It's tough.

CAVUTO: Yes.

A. ROMNEY: I mean, you know, it's funny. It seems odd to me, because it brought us closer, but for other people, it doesn't.

It's too much of a strain. So, you know, we want to -- we want to make a difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VARNEY: Wait. There's more.

Coming up:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. ROMNEY: One of the reasons Ann is up and strong and such a champion today is because of the work that Dr. Weiner provided and the treatment he provided to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: You're about to meet that man next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. ROMNEY: And so, as Ann got worse and worse, she had difficulty climbing the stairs and difficulty just maintaining a normal schedule in her life.

We began looking at the -- at putting an elevator in the home so she could get between the different floors of our home. And then, with very little hope for treatment or cure, we somehow came in touch with Dr. Weiner.

And Dr. Weiner provided hope and treatment and was able to stop the disease in its tracks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARNEY: And he helped Ann Romney.

And now, through her new center, that doctor is telling Neil how he hopes to bring a miracle to millions of others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. HOWARD WEINER, PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR. BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR NEUROLOGIC DISEASES: The exciting thing about the center is we're working on five diseases, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's disease, and brain tumors.

And there's not a lot of centers like that. We have kind of put together a collision of collaboration, if you will, looking at these different diseases.

CAVUTO: Now, that collision of collaboration means everyone playing their part, right, and sharing that information. As I discussed with Ann, sometimes easier said than done. How do you get past that?

WEINER: Well, I think the collision of collaboration occurs on two levels, one, the people within the center, that you break down the silos, people on Alzheimer's working on M.S., people on M.S. working on ALS, and then reaching out to other centers in California, in Chicago, overseas.

And we're doing that. And I think when people realize that we're trying to cure these diseases, they're going to participate.

CAVUTO: You know, Ann, we were talking about the environment starting something like this. It's still a dicey economic environment. The recovery is still what it is.

So I imagine the prospect for charitable contributions is still what it is, not great. Enter a new and very big one that is going to be looking for the same type of financial support. Are you worried?

A. ROMNEY: Well, not worried.

I know people are very charitable. And I know a lot of people care about these diseases. And I think people of my age are all worried that we're going to end up with Alzheimer's as well. And if we know that we are getting close to making some breakthrough on Alzheimer's, I think there -- a lot of -- a lot of people will be more interested in participating and trying to un -- unlock some of these mysteries.

CAVUTO: You know, that's one of the things I hear gets the most attention with this, Doctor, the focus on Alzheimer's. And regardless of whether there is a link to these other ailments, is that going to be your reminder to the world, we might be on the cusp of something that might not be a cure, but will be a treatment or will stave off full-blown Alzheimer's in patients who might not other realize that?

WEINER: We are on a cusp.

In fact, we are doing some of it. At the Brigham and Women's Hospital, we're heading up -- one of our doctors is heading up a large trial to try and treat people so they don't get Alzheimer's.

We have a nasal vaccine that we want to develop and that we have good results in animals, so that we are on this cusp -- we are on a cusp. We have things that we can do, we can try.

CAVUTO: But all that stuff is expensive. Just for M.S. treatments alone, I think one of mine is close to $20,000 a year.

So, how do you address that? And in the stage of Obamacare, when they're really questioning, politics notwithstanding here, how efficient and cost- effective that is, how do you -- how do deal with that?

WEINER: Well, we don't worry how much it costs. The amount of cost to take care of someone who has Alzheimer's is enormous.

What we want to do is find a treatment. We want to find a cure. Once we have that, the costs will be minimal.

CAVUTO: Well, it's a very good pitch to make, but as I think we discovered, that pitch, certainly when you talk to insurance companies, all they see is the costs up front. They don't see the long-term savings, or do they?

A. ROMNEY: Well, I think -- I think -- I hope they do. And I hope they recognize that prevention -- I think more and more, medicine is going to prevention, and to keeping ourselves in a healthy state, I think diet, nutrition, exercise, all those things

CAVUTO: There you go with that healthy lifestyle nonsense again. But go ahead.

A. ROMNEY: It's true.

CAVUTO: Yes.

A. ROMNEY: But, you know, it's -- prevention is so important.

And early detection, again, with all disease, whether it's cancer or what - - or Alzheimer's, now his research is finding this amyloid in the brain. If they can break that down and prevent someone from even having the Alzheimer's -- you know, the devastating effects of Alzheimer's, I mean, how exciting would that be is to know that we can actually...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes. A lot of people don't know they have the markers for it, if you can identify it early, right?

WEINER: Well, you need to identify earlier.

The best treatment is a treatment that's given early. And that's one of the things that we're going to try with all these diseases, in M.S. and Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's disease, brain tumors. The earlier we can identify it, the easier it's going to be to treat.

And this is, again, this collision of collaboration, if you will, to find things that are early. The other thing that we want -- and I think what's so unique about the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases is that we want more shots on goal.

So, what do I mean by a shot on goal? I mean, we want treatments. In other words, we -- a shot on goal is trying a new treatment in somebody who has the disease, and if it works, then we have a new treatment. And that's what's going to be different about what we're going to do.

CAVUTO: I always state -- and I think, Ann, you and I have discussed in the past with M.S., that it's understated the number of people who have it, 600,000 or 700,000, some of the count -- but I suspect you're the expert, Doctor, but it's a lot more than that.

With all of these other conditions, and I know the 50 million figure comes up, do you suspect it could be dramatically higher, just people who have not been diagnosed?

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: No question.

And once we have better mechanisms to identify it, we're going to find more and more people.

CAVUTO: OK.

Meanwhile, this board and who sits on it, myself included, it really is like a -- sort of a dysfunctional family, right?

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: Are you OK with that?

CAVUTO: I mean, will there be any...

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: He's going to have to manage it.

CAVUTO: ... food throwing or...

A. ROMNEY: Do you think, Neil -- it's going to be tough.

CAVUTO: I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

A. ROMNEY: It's going to be his toughest job.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: All you have to do -- I mean, as a doctor, all you have to do is see people who have these illnesses, see their families, and then the dysfunction goes away, because you need to help them.

CAVUTO: Bottom line, we're all human beings.

WEINER: That's correct.

A. ROMNEY: Isn't that the truth?

I mean, it's really wonderful that we have people like this. And what I want to do is just get behind that wagon and push it harder. And, Neil, you're going to have to join on that wagon. And we're going to just -- we're going to...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: As long as you stop talking about this healthy lifestyle stuff, I might be on board.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But, anyway, Doctor, I want to thank you.

And I want to thank you.

It's a very good cause. It's why I'm part of it, because this transcends politics, transcends money, transcends everything. It's about human beings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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