Leave no one behind in Alzheimer’s research

By Michael S. Rafii, MD, PhD

UC San Diego

Today in the U.S., more than 5 million people are living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.  According to a 2009 study by the Alzheimer’s Association, of those 5 million people, more than 500,000 live in California.  As we live longer, rates of Alzheimer’s disease have grown dramatically, and the disease is now cited as the third leading cause of death in the United States and the sixth leading cause of death in California.

As researchers gather this month in Copenhagen to discuss exciting developments in the field at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, media will rightly be focused on the encouraging strides being made toward early intervention and preventive therapies.

At the same time, AD clinical researchers cannot — and will not — leave anyone behind as the research progresses. We are well aware that new therapies are desperately needed for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. No new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Alzheimer’s since 2003 and advances in treatment options for patients already living with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s remain a critical need.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, develops when nerve cells in the brain no longer function normally, causing a change in memory. Mild to moderate Alzheimer’s signals the stage at which the decline in cognitive function becomes apparent to friends and family. Symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s include everything from increased difficulty performing simple tasks such as paying bills, to forgetfulness about one’s personal history and becoming moody and withdrawn in social situations.

For those who have ever loved or cared for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it becomes apparent that caring for patients often becomes a full-time job, affecting quality of life not only for the patient but for the caregiver. For caregivers, the gradual but permanent decline in their loved one’s mental and physical capabilities often takes a deep emotional and psychological toll.

In the San Diego region, researchers at UCSD and other clinical research organizations are committed to providing patients with access to studies that will help advance research on Alzheimer’s at all stages of the disease.

To push this initiative forward, UCSD is participating in the NOBLE Study, a clinical trial of a medication that uses a neuroprotectant approach that has been successful in many central nervous system disorders, including stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The study will focus on evaluating a medication specifically for those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

The NOBLE study is one example of how patients and their families can play a critical role in helping researchers find new treatments to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s, and we look forward to  working with the San Diego community to meet this pressing healthcare challenge.

Those interested in learning more should contact the Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Program — UC San Diego (CAP) at 858-246-1300.

Participants will be screened for eligibility and must:

•Be 55-85 years old, with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease

•Be receiving donepezil (Aricept) treatment for at least 6 months

•Live in the community (not a nursing home)

•Have a study partner who has regular contact and who will attend study visits

•Weigh no more than 220 pounds

Find more on the NOBLE Study at http://www.adcs.org/Studies/Noble.aspx.

Sources:

http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/alzheimers-basics

http://www.alz.org/cadata/fullreport2009.pdf

B. D. James, S. E. Leurgans, L. E. Hebert, P. A. Scherr, K. Yaffe, D. A. Bennett. Contribution of Alzheimer disease to mortality in the United States. Neurology, 2014; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000240.

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