Stopping Alzheimer's Disease Before Memory Loss Strikes

Could an antibody slow the progression of memory loss related to Alzheimer’s Disease? A clinical trial being conducted at Feinberg School of Medicine is trying to find out. 

The Anti-Amyloid in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s study (A4) is investigating if an antibody could slow the build up of a protein called amyloid in the brain. Amyloid can develop into clumps, or plaques, which researchers believe may play a role in the development of memory loss related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

This is a landmark study since it is the first of its kind to attempt to prevent dementia in individuals who are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease due to elevated amyloid in the brain but not yet showing symptoms.

This multi-site study is currently recruiting 1,000 individuals between the ages of 65-85 who have no outward signs of Alzheimer’s to participate in this three-year study. Interested individuals who meet the eligibility requirements have the opportunity to participate if a special PET scan shows amyloid build-up in the brain.

“Only about 20 percent of people will have amyloid build in the brain and of those 20 percent, only about one-third of them will actually develop Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Jordan Robson, A4 study coordinator. “So right now, the results of an amyloid scan cannot be fully interpreted but with this study we’re hoping to better understand the connection between the build up and dementia.” 

During the study, half of the participants will receive an antibody that flags the amyloid protein, allowing the immune system to attack it.    Half will receive placebo, which looks like the study drug but does not contain any drug and is used to see if the study drug has any effect.

Participants will undergo monthly cognitive testing to evaluate their memory and brain scans and to determine if plaques build up stops or slows. These studies are occurring at 67 sites in the United States, Canada and Australia, including Northwestern Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The study team is currently recruiting patients in collaboration with the NUCATS recruitment team.

“Recruitment for clinical trials is very time-consuming and labor intensive,” said Sandra Weintraub, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and Neurology. “The support provided by NUCATS has been invaluable in helping us increase the number of individuals we can screen.  Not everyone can be eligible for this trial and the NUCATS team allows us to target the most eligible candidates.”

The recruitment plan includes posting flyers in the community, ads on CTA trains and print advertisements in the South Shore Current, a publication on Chicago’s Southside that focuses on African American culture and health issues. These advertising methods were selected because the study is specifically trying to recruit a diverse population.

Ads have been running since June and calls have been sent to the NUCATS recruitment phone line where interested participants can talk to a recruitment coordinator about the study and be guided through  a prescreening survey to see if they pre-qualify. So far, 13 people have pre-qualified for the study.

If you or someone you know are interested in participating, please call 1-855- NU STUDY (312-503-6227) to learn more about the study and take a prescreening survey. 

Posted: November 4, 2016

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