Alzheimers tool lets people 50 and older monitor their risk over time
Healthy people at increased risk of developing the disease could join clinical trials sooner, says director of USC therapeutic institute
An online tool that helps older people monitor their brain health has been developed at the Keck School of Medicine of USC with other medical groups.
The free website called the Alzheimer Prevention Trials Webstudy addresses a major obstacle to finding early Alzheimers treatments for a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans: significant delays in clinical trial enrollment.
Researchers working on heart disease can go to doctors to find appropriate trial participants, but the people who will benefit most from Alzheimers disease treatments are healthy and have never seen a memory disorder specialist, he explained.
We’re incorporating innovations to build a bridge between the problem and the solution.
As a result, using traditional methods to recruit participants for Alzheimers clinical trials is far too slow and expensive, Aisen said. Were incorporating innovations such as web-based assessments and establishing trial-ready cohorts to build a bridge between the problem and the solution.
Clinical trials on promising drug treatments for Alzheimers have failed because patients were treated too late in the disease after irrevocable damage had already been done, Aisen said.
Researchers must evaluate experimental therapies in people whose Alzheimers symptoms are not yet obvious. Thats why the Keck School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Cleveland Clinic built an online research tool to direct seemingly healthy people at increased risk of developing Alzheimers into appropriate clinical trials aimed at preventing dementia.
Top risk factors for Alzheimers
The online platform allows people who are 50 or older to monitor their cognitive health over time. Participants create a profile that asks about personal health, educational history and exercise habits. These questions address the top risk factors linked to Alzheimers.
Among the main predictors for diagnoses of Alzheimers are age, family history of dementia, performance on cognitive tests and an individuals sense of whether their memory has changed, said Michael Rafii, clinical director of USC ATRI and associate professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine.
Participants take a 20-minute brain test every three months. If their cognitive health begins to decline and their profile indicates they are at increased risk of developing Alzheimers, they can join a nearby clinical trial.
The website launched on Dec. 22. As of Feb. 27, 2,773 people had created profiles. The goal is to recruit at least 200,000 people over 50 to join the online study.
Moving Alzheimers research into fast lane
The Keck School of Medicine plays a leading role in the first two pre-symptomatic Alzheimers clinical trials in the world, Aisen said. He said its difficult and expensive to enroll people who have Alzheimers disease pathology in their brains but none of the symptoms.
Our online tool will cut the price tag of early Alzheimers disease clinical trials by two-thirds because we wont have to spend millions testing people who wont develop Alzheimers disease, Aisen said. You wouldnt give an eye exam to a blind person. Our online tool identifies people who would be good candidates for pre-symptomatic Alzheimers disease clinical trials.
It took USC ATRI and its partners more than three years to recruit 1,150 participants for an Alzheimers clinical trial focused on people who dont yet show symptoms. They administered 4,500 PET scans, spinal taps and other procedures to determine if the potential participants had an overabundance of amyloid plaques and tau tangles protein indicators of future mental decline. The price tag for these procedures far surpassed $50 million, Aisen said.
We aim to complete recruitment for early Alzheimers clinical trials in a matter of months rather than years, Aisen said. Weve been moving far too slowly on developing new treatment options for Alzheimers. Its time to utilize the latest technologies to accelerate the process. This free online tool does just that.
USC ATRI is the San Diego branch of the Keck School of Medicine, which has faculty in Los Angeles working on a vaccine for Alzheimers. ATRI faculty and staff have worked on over 50 Alzheimers clinical trials and are currently involved in 14 studies, six of which are currently enrolling worldwide. ATRI is also home to the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, the National Institutes of Healths flagship consortium for Alzheimers disease.
The Alzheimer Prevention Trials Webstudy is supported by a $24.7 million grant from the National Institute of Healths National Institute on Aging. It is a collaboration with the Global Alzheimers Platform Foundation.