KU Alzheimer's Disease Center is a site for a national antibody treatment trial

June 19, 2014

By Andy Hyland

Jeffrey Burns

Scientists at the Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center will participate in a new study to determine whether a new antibody treatment can prevent the onset of memory problems before they arise.

The national study, called the "Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's" study - or the A4 study - will seek to enroll 1,000 adults between the ages of 65 to 85 who may be at higher risk for developing the disease, but who have no symptoms. The study will take place at trial sites across the United States, Canada and Australia.

The development of amyloid plaques in the brain has been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease. This study will seek to determine whether a drug treatment can slow memory loss associated with the buildup of the plaques.

"The A4 is exploring whether we can treat Alzheimer's disease the same way we now address high cholesterol and heart attack-halting the disease before it even starts," said Reisa Sperling, M.D., professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and principal investigator of the A4 study. "The A4 study offers new hope that we can give people a way to fight back, and give them something they can actively do to protect their own memories. We hope to eventually spare other generations from ever facing this devastating disease."  

Physicians and researchers will use an imaging test called a PET scan to determine whether a potential participant has evidence of an elevated level of amyloid plaque in the brain. The study will last for approximately three years, and participants will visit the clinical research site once a month during that time.

"Our Alzheimer's Disease Center is a national leader in research into the prevention of Alzheimer's disease," says Jeffrey M. Burns, M.D., Edward H. Hashinger professor of neurology and co-director of the KU Alzheimer's Disease Center. "Our participation in this new study complements our other work, including studies where we are trying to determine the role exercise can play in reducing the buildup of these plaques in the brain. Even if we could delay the onset of this devastating disease by five years, we could cut the prevalence of the disease in half."

The center is now recruiting potential volunteers to participate in the study. Those interested in volunteering should call 913-588-0555.

Joann Bell, 75, of Olathe, has expressed interest in participating in the new study, along with her husband. Both currently have no symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, but became interested in helping with research after watching her mother struggle with the disease for years. Bell served as a primary caregiver for her mother as she coped with the disease.

"My heart goes out to the caregivers," she says. "Twenty-four hours can feel more like 48. Every second you are dealing with someone with Alzheimer's you have to be ready, because you never know what you're going to have to do."

She says that she hoped by participating in research, she could help find new ways to help all those who had to deal with the disease.

"If, by any chance, I can be a small part of this study, I will feel as if I could be of help to my mother, all those that came before her and the millions that will come after her," Bell says.

More information on the new national A4 study is available at www.a4study.org. The study is coordinated by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, located at the University of California, San Diego.

The study is funded by the National Institute on Aging, Eli Lilly and Company and several philanthropic organizations.

Last modified: Jun 25, 2014