Leading the Way in Clinical Trials for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

Steve Salloway

The impact of Alzheimer's disease is staggering. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's; by 2050, 13 million are expected to have been diagnosed with this devastating disease. Symptoms have a profound impact on quality of life - loss of memory, loss of concentration, loss of judgment and loss of interest in social activities. The current cost of care for Americans with Alzheimer's is $172 billion each year.

Hope comes in many forms, including clinical trials for new drugs and vaccines.

In trials, medicines are put to the test to see if they lessen or stabilize the symptoms of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, or even delay or prevent the onset of disease. Butler Hospital, a partner in the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute, is a leader in clinical and biomarker trials for Alzheimer's. Butler is currently conducting about 20 treatment and biomarker trials enrolling over 200 patients. Some trials test drugs, others vaccines, which can break up and clear the amyloid plaques that harm brain cells and cause the symptoms of Alzheimer's. These trials are based on new brain scans, such as amyloid PET, that allow doctors to see changes in the brain very early in Alzheimer's disease.

"The goal, ultimately, is to catch Alzheimer's before dementia and its symptoms appear," says Stephen Salloway, MD, the director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital and an internationally known clinical trials researcher. "We want to keep the brain healthy."

In the last 16 years, Butler has tested 22 medications for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in 45 clinical trials. These include the nation's largest vaccine trial for Alzheimer's; the first trial to test an Alzheimer's drug for mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer's disease; and the nation's only treatment trial for CADASIL, the most common form of hereditary stroke. Butler is a member of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network (DIAN), an international research partnership funded by the National Institute on Aging, and Salloway chairs the steering committee for the nation's largest Phase 3 treatment trial to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. To learn more about current Butler research studies, visit http://www.butler.org/research/current-butler-research.cfm

"What's ahead are prevention trials," Salloway says. "We'll be testing vaccines on older people at risk for Alzheimer's but without cognitive symptoms, to see if we can delay the onset of the disease. If we can do that, we can improve quality of life. That's the bottom line, and a critical goal."