Genesh: Top research advances in dementia

We have reasons to be optimistic because of research success and growing interest in the disease

We observed the World Alzheimer’s Day once again on Sept. 21. It was observed all over the world as a day to focus on raising awareness, inspiring action, and helping people affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia around the world. Unlike the preceding years, we have reasons to be optimistic this year, because of research successes and growing national interest in the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is close to the hearts of many Canadians. This progressive neurodegenerative disease leads to loss of memory and abilities that affect the independence and quality of life that we all hold so dear. Recognizing that this disease can only be tackled by the cooperation with the medical/research communities within Canada and outside and collective action at all levels of government, our nation has joined the global efforts to find effective treatments and eventually a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging is a national initiative that connects 360 Canadian researchers working across the full range of dementia research including prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and support. Federal support for innovations will enable research to be translated into new products and services designed to meet the needs of patients and families.

Extensive research efforts have also been made in the U.S.A., U.K., Australia and other countries as well. One such research that is aimed at finding a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is the Anti-Amyloid Antibody against Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease or the A4 study. This was simultaneously launched at several centres in the U.S. and at Toronto and Vancouver.

The research using Anti-Amyloid Antibody or vaccine initially started in 2011-2012 and it was used to treat individuals who had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s’ Disease. The amyloid vaccine was supposed to clear amyloid plaques (collections of amyloid beta 42 protein) from the brain, but failed to deliver the expected results due to the huge amyloid load.

In A4 study the target population includes individuals who do not have symptoms of the disease but either have PET scan evidence of brain changes or a strong family history of the disease. Biogen’s Aducanumab has been promising in reducing the amyloid load in the brain and improving cognition in the participants. It has thus cleared Phase 1 and two trials and has entered Phase 3 trial.

University of Calgary has been chosen as one of the sites of this double-blind randomized control study, named Trial 221AD301. The study will last for 78 weeks and involves the use of Aducanumab (low dose, and high dose) versus placebo, given as monthly infusions.

The study is aiming to recruit 1350 individuals, between the ages of 50-85 with mild memory symptoms and positive amyloid PET scan. Enrolment for this study will start in two to three months, with the overall trial results to be published by 2020. You can get more information about this study from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02477800.

Another top research that made the headlines this year is in the area of early diagnosis. Both U.S.A. and U.K. have been working on a panel of lipids and proteins in the blood, the changes in the levels of which can indicate Alzheimer’s changes happening in the brain several years before the person experiences symptoms.

If this works, we will soon have a blood test that will help identify people who are developing the disease, in the very early stage itself. Since the current medications and the new trial medications have a better chance of succeeding if administered in the very early stages, this research is of utmost significance and is worth monitoring.

Canada is also participating in this research to develop a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. At the University of Calgary, Dr. Peter Stys is engaged in this research. They are recruiting persons with dementia and healthy volunteers to participate in the study. The participants should be willing to travel to Calgary, donate blood and undergo a lumbar puncture. Interested individuals may contact Dr. Smith at 403-944-1594.

Alberta is thus actively participating in dementia research and Albertans have the opportunity to be involved with the research initiatives. We hope that through our concerted efforts, we will able to develop effective treatments, and possibly a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in the coming years.

Padmaja Genesh, who holds a bachelor degree in medicine and surgery as well as a bachelor degree in Gerontology.

, has spent several years teaching and working with health care agencies. A past resident of Red Deer, and a past board member of Red Deer Golden Circle, she is now a Learning Specialist at the Alzheimer Society of Calgary. Please send your comments to padmajaganeshy@yahoo.ca

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