Dementia impacts too many of us – but we will change the ending

Hilary Evans sitting at a desk, smiling.

By Hilary Evans | Wednesday 20 September 2023

If you’ve seen our new campaign film, you’ll know that it pulls no punches. If nothing changes, one in two of us will be affected by dementia – either by caring for someone with the condition, developing it ourselves, or both.

Too many of us know how devastating this can be, but many members of the general public don’t. Our animation turns the traditional fairytale story on its head, putting dementia in the spotlight and exposing its heartbreaking reality.

I know that this film is hard-hitting, and that some people will find it difficult to watch. And for too long, dementia research may have seemed without hope. But through decades of investment by Alzheimer’s Research UK, we’re convinced that we’re starting to see a revolution in the way the condition can be treated, diagnosed and prevented. We need your help to make it a reality.

Since I joined the charity a decade ago, scientific understanding of dementia, and the diseases that cause it, has been transformed. And if I look back over the last 12 months alone, it’s clear that the pace of new discoveries is accelerating.

The arrival of two new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, lecanemab and donanemab, within 6 months of each other is proof of this acceleration. These are the first drugs to act on the disease processes that cause dementia, rather than just their symptoms. And they mark a historic turning point in our journey towards a cure. These drugs prove that it’s possible to slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease – the main cause of dementia – providing new hope for millions of people.

And with over 180 new drugs in the pipeline, this is just the beginning. At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we’re committed to keeping this pipeline flowing, for example through the work of our Drug Discovery Alliance, which bridges the gap between discovery science taking place in universities across the UK and drug development expertise in pharmaceutical companies.

We’re not just helping bring about a revolution in dementia treatment – research is also transforming the way people with dementia are diagnosed. Thanks to research breakthroughs, it’s becoming possible to detect signs of disease in people’s brain long before they develop dementia.

That’s why we’re investing in research to find ways to accurately diagnose people with dementia much earlier than we can today.  For example, we’re collaborating with Alzheimer’s Society on a £5m Blood Biomarker Challenge, funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund. Working with world-class scientists, our aim is to pilot a blood test for Alzheimer’s in the NHS, opening the door to faster and more accurate diagnosis for countless people. A test like this would revolutionise dementia diagnosis, eliminating lengthy periods of uncertainty and opening the door for a cure.

There’s also been huge progress in the field of prevention and risk reduction, with new understanding of the factors that can impact our dementia risk. Our Think Brain Health campaign is helping to translate discoveries in this area into practical advice and tips, educating thousands of people about the simple things they can do to protect their brains and help reduce their personal risk.

Our work in this area extends to other risk factors, like air pollution, which are more difficult to influence on an individual level. In recent years we have supported initiatives to improve air quality and urged government to make these measures a national priority. Our work in this area continues to be hugely influential, bringing us closer to a world free from the harm and heartbreak of dementia.

Dementia research is making unprecedented progress, and we’re closer than ever before to changing the ending faced by everyone affected by dementia. But we cannot do it alone. Through our powerful new campaign, we hope to inspire more people than ever before to take action.

Watch our new video and take action today >

Because with your support, we will not stop until we find a cure for this devastating condition. And consign the heartbreaking story of dementia – one that has been told too often – to the past.

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About the author

Hilary Evans

Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level to find a cure for dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.

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