Topeka Site Launches Clinical Trial On Breakthrough Alzheimer's Drug

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Alzheimer's disease has no cure, but a new drug could stop it in its tracks.

Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Research Center is among sites enrolling patients in a clinical trial to see if it works.

Dr. Scott Teeter, an internal medicine physician at Cotton-O'Neil, is leading the local effort. He says the trial will test a compound that prevents deposits of a protein in the brain tissue called beta amyloid. He says the protein is thought to be what "gums up" the brain tissue and leads to the loss of brain function in Alzheimer's. He says current drugs for Alzheimer's only treat symptoms, such as memory loss, and don't do anything to inhibit the actual disease process, like this drug is thought to do.

The trial involves a huge team effort. Doctors, technicians and staff in internal medicine, opthamology, psychiatry and neuro psychiatry, nursing, MRI, radiology and clinical research are all involved.

Teeter says periodic MRI's and eye exams throughout the study period are largely for the patient's safety, watching for changes to the brain or optic nerve. Participants also will undergo frequent neurological screenings, which will largely involve question and answer, with patients asked to remember objects or lists of words. Teeter says those assessments are done initially to establish a diagnosis and then to monitor a patient's stability, deterioration or improvement.

Teeter says a unique feature of the study is that even patients who are initially in a placebo group also will be given the active drug for a significant period of time toward the end of their study period.

Teeter says initial screening to see if a patient qualifies involves five or six visits of a couple hours each. After that, a participant will come in for multiple visits over 18 months, which makes having a good, organized caregiver a requirement to take part.

But the time commitment now could have a huge payoff for future generations. Teeter says the drug has the potential to be a major advance in the ability to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Study participants must be 55 to 85 years old, with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, diagnosed for at least a year. If you're interested for yourself or a loved one, call Cotton-O'Neil Clinical Research at 785-368-0744. Study participants and caregivers are provided compensation for their expenses.

Cotton-O'Neil will be among 150 to 190 sites worldwide taking part in the study. The Topeka location has an initial goal of enrolling at least 10 participants, with potential for more. The study organizers hope to look at more than 1700 patients over the next four years.