A Cure for Alzheimer’s is Not Possible Without You

There are many open, important clinical trials in Tennessee right now targeting Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions.

It’s been 18 months since Nashville legend Glen Campbell died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Glen and his family bravely shared his heartbreaking journey in the hope of inspiring better care and research for the disease, for which there is no known cure. Glen even sang about it: “I’m never gonna know what you go through, all the things I say or do, all the hurt and all the pain.” 

Alzheimer’s disease kills more Americans each year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, yet we do not have an effective treatment for preventing its onset or arresting its progression. More than 120,000 Tennesseans and 5.5 million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, numbers that are expected to keep rising as the population ages.  

Experts agree that if a treatment that delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years was available by 2025, then by 2030 there would be 2.4 million fewer Americans affected, and we would save $83 billion in annual health care costs. This goal is within our reach.  

The research at Vanderbilt is all encompassing

There are more than 130 therapeutic clinical trials underway representing potentially effective treatments. The only way we will know for sure if a treatment will work is to conduct clinical studies as safely and quickly as possible. But the greatest challenge we face is a shortage of volunteers to participate in these studies. Nearly 90 percent of Alzheimer’s clinical trials are seriously delayed because there aren’t enough volunteers. 

The Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine is part of the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation (GAP), a network of more than 70 leading research sites dedicated to expediting critical therapeutic trials. The Center for Cognitive Medicine’s approach to conducting research is comprehensive.

Vanderbilt’s research enterprise spans all phases of developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease — from new drug discovery and early-stage development in the lab to moving promising new drugs to first-in-human studies to large-scale national clinical studies.

The center studies the natural progression of memory loss in normal and abnormal aging, to design new treatments and to discover new uses for existing treatments. It also uses advanced imaging techniques to “see” into the brain to evaluate how novel treatments actually change brain structure and function.

Finally, Vanderbilt uses smart devices to test treatment effects on mental abilities in real-world settings. Get the Tennessee Voices newsletter in your inbox.

How you can help researchers

Scientists from Vanderbilt are among the 150 researchers from GAP sites across the continent gathering in our city this week to discuss their progress toward finding a cure and strategies that are improving recruiting, the volunteer’s experience and catalyzing the research process.

Holding this important meeting in Nashville makes a lot of sense.  What better place to design enhanced ways for people to participate in critical trials than the Volunteer State and in a city that is a famous center of innovation in life sciences, medical research and health services? 

But researchers can’t solve the Alzheimer’s disease puzzle alone. We need your help. There are many open, important clinical trials in Tennessee right now targeting Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions such as the mild memory loss that often precedes Alzheimer’s, so-called mild cognitive impairment. 

If you are concerned about your or your loved one’s memory or Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.vumc.org/ccm/ or call 615-875-0955 to learn more about clinical studies and trials at the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine that are free to the volunteer. Clinical trials are a partnership between you (the volunteer), your family and the researcher, and you are in the driver’s seat.

Your participation could be the key to finding treatments that relieve the suffering of millions of Americans and improve the quality of life for all of us as we age.  

Dr. Paul Newhouse is the director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. John Dwyer Jr., a Nashville native, is the president of the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation, the leading nonprofit working to make Alzheimer’s clinical trials faster, more efficient and more effective. 

Originally posted on Tennessean.com on February 26, 2019.

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