Five things Alzheimer’s Research UK is doing to change the ending

An animated prince and princess sit on a white horse, smiling at each other lovingly. The sun shines brightly in the background.

By Nathan Choat | Friday 15 March 2024

Our Change the Ending film lays bare the harsh realities of dementia.

It’s a cruel condition that robs us of everything that matters. And as it stands, no one will survive it.

But thanks to your support, we are making progress.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is striving towards a cure, by working to revolutionise the way dementia is treated, diagnosed and prevented.

Read on to find out what we’re doing to change the ending for everyone affected by dementia.

1. Investing in treatments of the future

We’re speeding up the discovery of new treatments for people with dementia, through our Drug Discovery Alliance.

The £30 million initiative is made up of three cutting-edge institutes across the UK, based at University College London, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

A growing team of staff now work across the sites, collaborating with industry to make groundbreaking discoveries can be swiftly turned into experimental medicines for testing in trials.

With more than 65 discoveries explored so far and 37 earmarked for further testing, the Alliance is speeding up our journey towards a cure.

2. Making sure new medicines reach the people who need them

The first ever treatments to slow cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease could soon be approved in the UK.

But these medicines need to be made available on the NHS so that as many people with early Alzheimer’s can benefit. And that’s a decision that will rest with bodies like the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

We’re calling on these bodies to consider the full benefit of new Alzheimer’s treatments when deciding whether they are an effective use of NHS resources.

As things stand, the disease’s impact on so-called ‘informal’ carers is overlooked in this decision. But the UK’s informal carers collectively spend 1.1bn hours annually looking after their loved ones – with many required to give up their jobs to do so.

We’ve got some high-profile supporters, such as Baroness Nicky Morgan, supporting our campaign to change this.

We’re also calling for more support for NHS services as they prepare to deliver disease-modifying treatments.

By tackling these challenges, we will make new dementia drugs available for the people who will benefit, without delay.

Sign up to our campaigner newsletter to hear more about our work in this area.

 

Female researcher working in the lab.

 

3. Transforming the way dementia is diagnosed

Getting a formal diagnosis of dementia can open the door to additional support and care. And without one, people with dementia won’t be able to access life-changing treatments when they arrive.

But shockingly, only around two-thirds of people with dementia in the UK ever receive a formal diagnosis.

That’s because current methods can be slow and costly, and can be uncomfortable. They are also out of reach for many people.

So transforming the way dementia is diagnosed is an important step in our search for a cure.

Fortunately, blood tests now have the potential to make this possible.

Working with Alzheimer’s Society and the National Institute of Health and Care Research, we’re leading a project to pilot blood tests for Alzheimer’s in the NHS.

The £5m Blood Biomarker Challenge, funded by the generous players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, will bring together world-class scientists to revolutionise the way we diagnose people with dementia.

We’re also supporting other innovative methods of diagnosis, including digital tests and brain health clinics.

By improving diagnosis, we will open the door to a cure.

4. Empowering people to reduce their risk

Prevention is the ultimate cure. In fact, up to 40% of dementia cases are linked to factors we may be able to influence.

That’s according to the influential Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, which regularly reviews the evidence around dementia risk.

Think Brain Health campaign logoBut according to our Dementia Attitudes Monitor survey, only around 1 in 3 people believe it’s possible to help reduce their risk of developing the condition.

We created our Think Brain Health campaign to raise awareness of the positive changes people can make to help reduce their risk of dementia. These include things like staying active, and keeping connected to the people around you.

We also launched our interactive Check-in tool, which provides personalised tips to help people give back to their brains.

This is important because while new treatments will play a big part in our search for a cure, effective prevention is also vital.

By raising awareness of the importance of prevention, Think Brain Health is bringing us closer to a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.

5. Campaigning for more funding for dementia research

Research is our only chance of stopping dementia in its tracks, which is why we’re calling on politicians of all parties to commit more funding.

Dementia research has made progress under the current government. Our campaigning efforts helped bring about the Dementia Mission, a national initiative to speed up dementia research co-chaired by our Chief Executive, Hilary Evans.

But with a general election expected this year, we cannot afford to lose momentum.

We’re making the case that government and political parties should set out long-term strategic and sustainable plans for dementia research funding. This must span everything from experimental discovery science to clinical research.

We’re also highlighting the huge economic benefits dementia research can bring. Our analysis shows that every £1 invested in 2019-20 generated £2.59 in the UK economy.

The benefits of dementia research funding are clear, and we won’t stop until politicians give it the attention it deserves.

Help us accelerate progress towards a cure

The tide is turning against dementia, and we’re closer to a cure than ever before. But we need your help to make dementia a thing of the past.

Visit our campaign website to find out how you can help change the ending.

 

 

 

 

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About the author

Nathan Choat

Communications Officer – Campaigns & Projects