Importance: The ability to predict the pathology underlying different neurodegenerative syndromes is of critical importance owing to the advent of molecule-specific therapies.
Objective: To determine the rates of positron emission tomography (PET) amyloid positivity in the main clinical variants of primary progressive aphasia (PPA).
Design, setting, and participants: This prospective clinical-pathologic case series was conducted at a tertiary research clinic specialized in cognitive disorders. Patients were evaluated as part of a prospective, longitudinal research study between January 2002 and December 2015. Inclusion criteria included clinical diagnosis of PPA; availability of complete speech, language, and cognitive testing; magnetic resonance imaging performed within 6 months of the cognitive evaluation; and PET carbon 11-labeled Pittsburgh Compound-B or florbetapir F 18 brain scan results. Of 109 patients referred for evaluation of language symptoms who underwent amyloid brain imaging, 3 were excluded because of incomplete language evaluations, 5 for absence of significant aphasia, and 12 for presenting with significant initial symptoms outside of the language domain, leaving a cohort of 89 patients with PPA.
Main outcomes and measures: Clinical, cognitive, neuroimaging, and pathology results.
Results: Twenty-eight cases were classified as imaging-supported semantic variant PPA (11 women [39.3%]; mean [SD] age, 64  years), 31 nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA (22 women [71.0%]; mean [SD] age, 68  years), 26 logopenic variant PPA (17 women [65.4%]; mean [SD] age, 63  years), and 4 mixed PPA cases. Twenty-four of 28 patients with semantic variant PPA (86%) and 28 of 31 patients with nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA (90%) had negative amyloid PET scan results, while 25 of 26 patients with logopenic variant PPA (96%) and 3 of 4 mixed PPA cases (75%) had positive scan results. The amyloid positive semantic variant PPA and nonfluent/agrammatic variant PPA cases with available autopsy data (2 of 4 and 2 of 3, respectively) all had a primary frontotemporal lobar degeneration and secondary Alzheimer disease pathologic diagnoses, whereas autopsy of 2 patients with amyloid PET-positive logopenic variant PPA confirmed Alzheimer disease. One mixed PPA patient with a negative amyloid PET scan had Pick disease at autopsy.
Conclusions and relevance: Primary progressive aphasia variant diagnosis according to the current classification scheme is associated with Alzheimer disease biomarker status, with the logopenic variant being associated with carbon 11-labeled Pittsburgh Compound-B positivity in more than 95% of cases. Furthermore, in the presence of a clinical syndrome highly predictive of frontotemporal lobar degeneration pathology, biomarker positivity for Alzheimer disease may be associated more with mixed pathology rather than primary Alzheimer disease.