Number of Alzheimer’s clinical trials almost doubles in 3 years – Volunteers needed for innovative dementia trials opening in the UK

Posted on 19th July 2016

According to latest figures, the number of drug trials to treat Alzheimer’s disease across the globe has almost doubled since 2013.

In the UK, there are now 19 drug studies investigating potential new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, testing treatments that aim to be the first to slow or stop the progression of the disease.

With no new drugs to treat dementia in over a decade and an estimated 850,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia, research into medicines that can potentially delay progression of the condition is much needed. The increase in new trials means that researchers are urgently seeking more people with memory problems to take part.

Join Dementia Research, is an innovative service accelerating this vital research by finding suitable study participants.  Join Dementia Research is looking for more volunteers with dementia to register, but also people without dementia who are experiencing early memory problems. Changes in the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s can start many years before symptoms show, so studying people with mild memory problems gives researchers the best chance of understanding how dementia develops and finding ways to stop it.

Anyone interested in volunteering for dementia research can sign up to Join Dementia Research online at www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk

The latest drug study to be added to Join Dementia Research is called ENGAGE, from Biogen Inc.  This international study is looking to determine whether a new investigational medication, Aducanumab, can slow progression of early Alzheimer’s disease and also whether it’s safe to use in patients.  This phase III study is now looking for more volunteers.  Sites are opening across England and Scotland and researchers are looking for volunteers aged 50-85 and those who are experiencing problems with memory or thinking may be eligible to take part.  Participation will involve one or two site visits each month and telephone interviews for up to four years.  The study will include questionnaires and interviews, physical examinations, MRI and PET scans, and other tests to monitor health.

Professor Craig Ritchie is Professor of the Psychiatry of Ageing at the University of Edinburgh and Chief Investigator in the ENGAGE study.  He said:

“Dementia research is critically important, not least because of the huge number of people it affects. Although we have some drugs that manage some of the symptoms of dementia, we have a long way to go in terms of modifying the course of the disease.  However, only by conducting high quality research will we be able to get conclusive evidence and move treatments forward.  To do this research we’re relying on people who are experiencing the very earliest stages of memory problems to come forward and offer to take part.”

Other studies recruiting through Join Dementia Research include:

  • The Amaranth study, testing whether a new drug can slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease by slowing the production of beta-amyloid, a protein known to build up in the brain in the disease.  The trial involves a one-a-day tablet to be taken over two years, as well as various tests and assessments monitoring health throughout the period. The study is looking for people aged 55-85 with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The RADAR trial (Reducing pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease through Angiotensin taRgeting), is looking at whether losartan, a commonly-used treatment for high blood pressure (hypertension), could also be effective at slowing progression of  Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe losartan can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by improving brain blood flow and altering chemical pathways that cause brain cell damage, brain shrinkage and memory problems in Alzheimer’s disease.  Participation involves taking the drug once a day for 14 months, with 9 site or home visits.  The study is looking for people 55+, with and without hypertension or high blood pressure, but with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in England and Scotland.

Join Dementia Research is a nationwide online and telephone service that makes it easier for people to register their interest in volunteering for vital dementia research studies.  It is open to anyone over the age of 18 and people can act as a representative to register a loved one, including someone who has dementia who may find it difficult to register themselves or manage their own account.  To date, 19,711 people have registered, and 5,498 taken part in research studies.  Despite this, more people with dementia and memory problems are being asked to come forward.

Wendy Mitchell, who has young onset dementia, is taking part in research, including a drug trial aiming to determine whether an antibiotic is effective in reducing the rate of cognitive and functional decline. Wendy said:

“There currently is no cure and without willing volunteers to try out new drugs there will continue to be no cure. Taking part in research is my way of feeling useful again and contributing to finding that elusive treatment which in turn will create a better world for my children.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Clinical trials are an essential part of delivering any new treatment to patients and volunteers are essential for these important studies to get off the ground. It’s promising to see so many new clinical trials for potential new dementia treatments starting in the UK, but the challenge now is to support those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias to take part.

“Many of the current trials are testing treatments in those at risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s, or those experiencing early symptoms, as researchers believe the drugs are most likely to have the biggest effect when given early. Anyone who is experiencing memory problems or has a diagnosis of dementia should be given the opportunity to take part in research as early as possible and Join Dementia Research provides a mechanism to do that.”

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