Nov 292011
 
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We are lucky to be living in a time of significant scientific advancements — allowing us to live healthier, longer lives. But longer lifespans increase the likelihood of age-related health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 5.4 million men and women (and growing). It is also the only top 10 killer in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even treated effectively.

Why not? For those of us in the research community working toward a cure, the greatest challenge is not the disease itself. The biggest hurdle in Alzheimer’s is finding enough volunteers for studies — like the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) — to allow the research to continue at the pace needed to be successful against this “silent epidemic.” This fight is personal to me not only as a scientist, but because I am watching my mother slowly decline from Alzheimer’s. I know what millions of Americans are facing with this disease.

As the largest and most comprehensive Alzheimer’s disease research study of its kind, ADNI is helping to identify the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, when brain damage begins. With better knowledge of the earliest stages of the disease, we may be able to test potential therapies earlier, when they have the greatest promise for slowing down progression of this devastating disease. I believe strongly in the potential of this study — so much so that I have been volunteering in it myself over the past six years, and can attest to the fact that the experience is highly educational and the procedures are safe.

ADNI’s research has made significant inroads into this complex disease and has put us at the cusp of further discoveries that could help better treat Alzheimer’s. To continue the momentum, we must spread the word that everyone can contribute to furthering research. No medical degree required.

I encourage you to lend your voice to this issue and raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Better yet, consider participating in the ADNI trial. We are seeking normal persons, patients with Alzheimer’s disease and individuals with mild cognitive impairment to better understand the breadth and progression of the disease. The age range is 55 to 90.

Changing the face of Alzheimer’s disease is possible, but we can’t find the answers we need without volunteer partners in science. It will take everyone’s involvement — researchers and clinicians, doctors, patients, friends and family members, and trial participants — to fight this disease effectively. Together we can continue to enhance lives by contributing to the advancement of science.

Michael W. Weiner, M.D.
Director, Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases
San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Professor of Medicine, Radiology, Neurology and Psychiatry
University of California, San Francisco

This post originally appeared in Alzheimer’s Insights, an ADCS Blog.

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  13 Responses to “The Biggest Challenge to Alzheimer’s Disease Research”

  1. Is it absolutely necessary to be 55 to participate in clinical trials? I'm 42 and would like to be involved. My mother passed away two months ago after six years with Alzheimer's.

    • Tanya — There are many different studies currently enrolling volunteers, all with different criteria. The Alzheimer's Association has a free service called TrialMatch that can help you locate trials you qualify for in your area. You can learn more about it online or by calling 1-800-272-3900 (7 a.m.-7 p.m. CT Monday-Friday).

  2. Sitting next to my father in law who is 84 and this is such a terrible disease I have seen twice in my lifetime, i believe hormones and neurotransmitters balanced naturally would be a great help! The pills and patches have done nothing!

  3. How about those of us outside the US? Australia, for example?

  4. Is there a research program near Iowa that I could get involved with? I would love to get involved but can't move to California.

    • Laura, You can find out about research in your area through Alzheimer's Association TrialMatch. It's a free service to help match people to dementia research based on study criteria and location. You can learn more about it online at <a href="http://www.alz.org/trialmatch” target=”_blank”>www.alz.org/trialmatch or by calling 1-800-272-3900 (7 a.m.-7 p.m. CT Monday-Friday).

  5. My husband and I were involved in an alzheimer's study for 5 years and it was discontinued because of lack of funds.

  6. If you need more subjects for studies perhaps you should relax the criteria necessary for participation. My wife has early onset (young onset) alzheimers. In the beginning I tried to enroll her in a number of studies but being under 50 years old she was not considered. Now that she is over 50 and the disease has progressed she doesn't qualify because while otherwise healthy is not able to give feedback via paper and pencil. The only study I have been able to get her in is an autopsy study when that time arrives with annual evaluations to chart the progress of the disease. Sorry to vent but I don't want to hear it's because they can't get subjects, they need to think outside the box and approach studies from a different tact that is used on other types of diseases.

  7. I am 61 and have lost 2 family members with the disease. My 87 year old Mom lives with me and she has it too. I would like to volunteer for the research to hopefully prevent myself from getting it, and also my 31 year old daughter and others…

  8. I really like and appreciate the words "cannot be treated effectively" It is so important to spread the word that Alzheimer's is not just about memory loss.

  9. My wife is an early onset victim, Yes victim!

    We have participated in three studies with the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston SC. It has been a positive experience. We will take a break after this one. I am concerned that the battery of questions in the evaluation and in the mini mental evaluations that do not ask the right questions to evaluate the effectiveness of the effort. Many question are based on severe sysmptoms not progressive complications of life that sometimes move slowly. Researchers need to look closer into subjects to find out true complications and the affect that they have on daily life. at 57 with a four year diaganosis we treasure every day we have together

  10. I believe that many people should get the word out and inform people about this disease. I am currently in SIgma Kappa sorority and all of us girls participate in the walk to end Alzheimer's every year. It is our goal to inform other people about Alzheimer's and show people that you can make a difference by just walking.

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