Disability news

New trial sets out to find drugs for onset dementia

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A new trial aiming to offer new drugs to patients with onset dementia is being rolled out across the UK.

Thousands of people will be invited to local memory clinics for a blood test in a bid to find pioneering treatment for the illness and better support for those living with the condition.

Around a third of patients never have a formal diagnosis of their dementia, leaving them with an uncertain and unstable future.

Just 2 percent receive one of the ‘gold standard’ tests for Alzheimer's, detected by a specialist PET brain scan or a spinal lumbar puncture which show proteins in the brain, such as amyloid and tau that build up over the years before the illness starts to show any symptoms - but these tests are very expensive.

Research teams at University College London [UCL] and the University of Oxford will compile the study supported by around 5,000 volunteers over the next five years.

The guys at Oxford will try to find a cheaper and more productive method on how doctor’s can spot early signs of the illness.

Over at UCL experts will concentrate on p-tau217, a biomarker for Alzheimer’s, which can detect levels of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain.

One of the blood tests will try to find traces of the proteins to diagnose Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. This trial will investigate if measuring p-tau217 in the blood increases the rate of diagnosis in patients not only living with early dementia but those with mild though progressive memory loss.

Additional tests will search for vascular and frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Dr Vanessa Raymont, from the University of Oxford, is leading the study but warns despite some blood tests already showing promising results the trial has its limitations.

She told BBC News: "Research has tended to exclude the very elderly, ethnic minorities and those with other medical conditions so we need to understand what the data looks like in the real world, which is why these projects are so important."

Two drugs, lecanemab and donanemab, are being considered by the MHRA, which approves drugs in the UK.

But even if they are given the green light the NHS would need to consider the cost-effectiveness before they are rolled out across the UK.

Jonathan Schott, professor of neurology at UCL, who is leading the trial, said: "An early, accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is already important, allowing people to access appropriate care and medications.

"If, as we hope, new treatments that can slow down Alzheimer's disease become available soon, then this will be vital.

"This would pave the way for fair and equitable access to new and potentially life-changing treatments to all who might benefit."

Dr Sheona Scales, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "We've seen the enormous potential that blood tests are showing for improving the diagnostic process for people and their loved ones in other disease areas."

[ The Blood Biomarker Challenge is being funded by Alzheimer's Society, Alzheimer's Research UK, National Institute for Health and Care Research and Gates Ventures, including £5m from People's Postcode Lottery. ]

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