Predicting development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in frontotemporal fementia

Tim Van Langenhove*, Olivier Piguet, James R. Burrell, Cristian Leyton, David Foxe, Melissa Abela, Lauren Bartley, Woojin S. Kim, Eve Jary, Yue Huang, Carol Dobson-Stone, John B. Kwok, Glenda M. Halliday, John R. Hodges

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A proportion of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) also develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

Objective: We aimed to establish the risk of developing ALS in patients presenting with FTD and to identify the relevant clinical variables associated with progression from FTD to FTD-ALS. 

Methods: Of 218 consecutive patients with FTD, 10.1% had a dual FTD-ALS diagnosis at presentation. The remaining 152 FTD patients with follow-up of at least 12 months were included in the present study. We calculated the rate of progression to FTD-ALS and compared the baseline characteristics of FTD patients who developed ALS to those who did not develop ALS. Results: Five percent of FTD patients developed ALS. The incidence rate of ALS was 6.7/100 patient-years in patients with FTD symptoms since 1 year, which declined with duration of FTD symptoms. No FTD patients developed ALS after 5 years. Five out of 8 FTD patients who developed ALS had presented with a mixed behavioral variant FTD and progressive non-fluent aphasia (bvFTD+PNFA) phenotype, 2 with bvFTD, and 1 with PNFA. Progression to FTD-ALS was significantly more frequent in patients with bvFTD+PNFA compared to those without this phenotype (p < 0.0001, OR 38.3, 95% CI: 7.3 to 199.2), and in FTD patients who carried the C9orf72 repeat expansion compared to those without the repeat expansion (p = 0.02, OR 8.0, 95% CI: 1.7 to 38.6). 

Conclusions: FTD patients with a mixed bvFTD+PNFA phenotype and with a C9orf72 repeat expansion should be closely monitored for the possible development of ALS. The risk of developing ALS in FTD appears to decline with the duration of FTD symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-170
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • disease progression
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • incidence
  • primary progressive aphasia
  • prognosis


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