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Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th-leading cause of death in the U.S. It kills more people than breast and prostate cancers combined. One in three people over 65 has Alzheimer’s. And yet, there is hope.

Hope comes from researchers like Dr. Daniel Murman, a geriatric neurologist and head of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Nebraska Medicine. He leads the Nebraska portion of three national, clinical trials for new Alzheimer’s medication.

The last safe and effective drug approved for Alzheimer’s came out 10 years ago. While it helps manage symptoms in the early stage of the disease, it doesn’t change the process of destruction of brain cells or slow the disease’s progression.

New drugs seem to inch their way to market with trials lasting from 18 months to 5 years. Trials have three main phases: determining safety, evaluating whether a medication works in the target group of people, and studying effectiveness of dosages. At each phase, subjects are recruited and assigned to either take the medication to be tested or receive an inactive substance (placebo), data is collected and analyzed, and finally, results are reported. National trials, like the 3 at Nebraska Medicine, are simultaneously conducted at 50-100 sites around the U.S.

Current research at Nebraska Medicine focuses on changing the underlying process and progression of Alzheimer’s. Two of the trials focus on the drug Solanezumab’s ability to attack Amyloid at different stages of Alzheimer’s. Researchers know Amyloid protein fragments build-up and create plaque 15-20 years before a person shows signs of impaired thinking. The plaque masses interfere with information transmission in the brain and cells eventually die, causing cognitive function loss.

Researchers believe if the Amyloid can be detected and removed early, the possible onset of Alzheimer’s can be delayed by 3-5 years. Studies with people who have moderate dementia reveal the possibility of slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s by 30-50%.

Details of Nebraska Medicine’s trials:

1. A4, trial for drug Solanezumab, due to be completed in 3 years: Looks at delaying onset of Alzheimer’s disease in those with increased risk. Researchers are accepting participants who are 60-65 years old, have normal cognitive activity and have been determined to be at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s due to a special brain scan indicating the presence of Amyloid. Inquire at A4Study.org or 844-A4STUDY.

2. Expedition 3, trial for Solanezumab, due to be completed in 2016 and reported 2017: Looks at developing a medication which would slow the progress of the disease in people with mild Alzheimer’s.

3. Noble Study, trial for an oral medication (T-817MA), due to be completed in 2016 and reported 2017: Evaluates medication to slow the progression of the disease in people with moderate Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Daniel Murman knows what it takes to bring a new medication to reality. He understands the intricacies of neurology and complex trial analysis. He is a part of this research process as few others can be. He has hope—so can you.

Sources: Nebraska Medicine, Clinicaltrials.gov, Alzheimer’s Association (Alz.org)

Lee Nyberg, a partner at Home Care Assistance of Nebraska, focuses on education on aging issues, co-leads a Parkinson's support group, and is a legislative advocate for the Alzheimer's Association.

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