Carmel, CA Alzheimer's Research Gets Exciting New Development On The Research Front : Thank You Banner Alzheimer's Institute : View From A Private Duty Caregiverby Richard Kuehn on 06/17/12
I wrote recently on my blog that Alzheimer's research could be taking a giant leap forward due to clinical trials beginning shortly to give Genentech's drug Crenezumab (which attacks amyloid plaques in the brain) to people that are genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer's disease. I was very excited to be invited to an event last night where Eric Reiman, MD, the CEO of Banner Research and the Executive Director of Banner Alzheimer's Institute (BAI) and the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative spoke. He explained that many drug companies have been frustrated by the long time it takes to conduct clinical trials and get drugs through the FDA approval process. It's even more difficult for Alzheimer's disease given the fact that it can be decades before symptoms come on. A cure for the disease may be found by testing vaccines on healthy young people who are predisposed to the disease. Testing on older victims which are well into the disease may not be as effective. Doing this on the general population would take decades to get results, but there are pockets of people around the world that have a rare gene giving them 100% odds of getting early onset Alzheimer's disease. And that's where the Banner Alzheimer's Institute comes in. Crenezumab is currently being tested in two clinical trials on people who have mild to moderate symptoms of dementia to try and discover whether it can help reduce cognitive decline or amyloid accumulation. But there are bigger hopes for a study in Columbia, which is where one of these rare groups of pre-disposed victims reside. I wrote years ago about an extended family in a village in Columbia where, because they have a specific gene and have inbred, many of them start developing dementia in their 30's, 40's and 50's. It's one of the most heart breaking stories I have ever read and it profiled a woman who, at the age of 82, was forced to take care of three children between the ages of 48 and 55 who all developed early onset dementia. The woman had to feed them and change their diapers as she did when they were children. When the Times profiled them in 2010, researchers were very excited about studying this pool of about 5,000 people. However, drug cartels made the area too dangerous to travel in and the studies never came to fruition. Thankfully, BAI is able to begin a $100 million five year study on 300 of these family members, some of which are in their 30's. Dr. Reiman traveled there and saw the heartbreak himself, meeting with over 1,000 of these people who have or likely will soon have Alzheimer's disease. BAI has raised $137 million so far from a combination of funding from the National Institutes of Health, Genentech and private donations. What's amazing is that Reiman was able to convince Genentech to release data on blood samples, cognitive functioning tests and other data to other researchers so that hopefully studies on other promising vaccines can be developed. This is extremely rare for drug companies to do this because there is a risk competitor's will reverse engineer the drug. But it's so critical that a cure for this disease is found, Genentech has agreed to release the data. Dr. Reiman believes this will open the door to a flood of new research projects, all looking for a vaccine. I'm so happy to hear that. A cure for this disease can't wait. In addition to the pain and suffering inflicted on those who have the disease and their family members, it could in fact bankrupt Medicare if something isn't done soon. Regular readers of my blog know that both my father and my grandmother had Alzheimer's disease when they passed away. I am a big supporter of the Alzheimer's Association, which has a 24-hour help line at 800-272-3900. They are also the largest private supporter of Alzheimer's research in the United States. Please help them with their important mission if you can by clicking on this link for Family inHome Caregiving fundraising site for Alzheimer's Association. To find out more about the great work that the Banner Alzheimer's Institute is doing, click here.