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Burns named to Governor’s Alzheimer's Disease Working Group

July 27, 2018

By Kay Hawes

Jeff Burns

Jeffrey Burns, M.D., co-director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center (KU ADC), has been named by Governor Jeff Colyer to the Alzheimer's Disease Plan Working Group. This group will create a plan to prepare for a rising number of Kansans with Alzheimer's disease, a debilitating form of dementia that affects 5.4 million Americans and for which there is currently no known cure.

"I'm honored to be appointed to this important effort," Burns said. "We will be working hard to assess the need in the state of Kansas. We will be looking at where we are now in terms of how many Kansans have Alzheimer's disease and what kind of resources already exist. Our goal will be to mobilize those resources and bring them together so we, as a state, can better fight Alzheimer's disease."

Burns oversees numerous clinical trials at the KU ADC, which is one of only 31 nationally designated Alzheimer's disease centers by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. Burns says it's critical to increase participation in clinical trials, which can be exceptionally difficult.

"The first person cured of Alzheimer's will be in a clinical trial," Burns said. "And right now, there are numerous trials here in Kansas and across the nation that are desperately seeking participants."

Earlier this week, The New York Times detailed the difficulty in an article with a title that says it all, "For Scientists Racing to Cure Alzheimer's, the Math Is Getting Ugly."  One of Burns' colleagues, John Dwyer, president of the Global Alzheimer's Platform Foundation, was quoted in the article noting the uphill battle to recruit trial participants for a disease that is so mysterious that hundreds of clinical trials are needed. He welcomes both the new effort in Kansas and Burns' appointment.

"The Global Alzheimer's Platform Foundation (GAP) applauds Governor Colyer's decision to create an Alzheimer's Taskforce to create a strategic plan to better attack this invidious disease," Dwyer said.  "We also want to vigorously endorse the selection of Dr. Jeff Burns for the taskforce. He is one of the nation's best Alzheimer's researchers. He is extremely innovative, and he is a born-and-bred Kansan enormously committed to the health and welfare of Kansas."

The need to fight Alzheimer's disease rigorously is something Burns talks about a lot. "We don't yet know enough about the disease, and we don't have enough options for patients and their families," he said.

Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease and other dementias will cost the nation $277 billion this year. Burns notes that as the population ages, the disease will continue to march forward.

"This is a disease of aging, and right now one in three people over the age of 85 have it," Burns said. "It's more critical now than ever that we make progress in finding a cure or delaying its onset. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by just five years would save our nation billions of dollars."

Many of the trials at the KU ADC focus on prevention, and the participation of healthy older adults with no dementia is critical to their success. So far, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise seem to offer the most hope.

For information about how to participate in a clinical trial or how to access the KU ADC's educational program, Lifestyle Empowerment for Alzheimer's Prevention (LEAP), see or call 913-588-0555.

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Contact: Kay Hawes
Associate Director of News and Media Relations
University of Kansas Medical Center

About the University of Kansas Medical Center:

The University of Kansas Medical Center's mission is to educate exceptional health care professionals through a full range of undergraduate, graduate, professional, postdoctoral and continuing education programs in the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions. KU Medical Center also advances the health sciences through world-class research programs; provides compassionate and state-of-the-art patient care in an academic medical center environment; and works with communities in every Kansas county to improve the health of Kansans.

Last modified: Jul 30, 2018