New nationwide Alzheimer's study underway

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center are preparing to begin a clinical trial aimed at testing an investigational new drug that may help control the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

The drug, currently known as bapineuzumab, has previously shown promise in animal and human studies.

Funded by Elan Pharmaceuticals, the study, named Investigational Clinical Amyloid Research in Alzheimer's (ICARA), will last about 18 months and will include up to 1,500 patients enrolled at research sites in North America. The site at Wake Forest University's J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging will follow 5 to 10 of those patients.

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive loss of memory and cognitive function. It destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect everyday life. Alzheimer's gets worse over time, and it is fatal. It is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly, affecting approximately 18 million people worldwide, and Alzheimer's-related medical complications are among the most common causes of death in the elderly population.

Researchers want to see if the drug can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease by blocking the amyloid precursor protein, which causes the brain cells to stop working. Amyloid beta peptide is the primary protein found in amyloid plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. It is expected that by blocking the formation of this peptide, the rate of disease progression can be slowed.

The study will compare bapineuzumab to a placebo.

“Our goal is to explore if this investigational drug can help control the progression of Alzheimer's,” said Franklin Watkins, M.D., the principal investigator for the study and medical director for the Acute Care for the Elderly Unit at the Medical Center. “Most current therapies for Alzheimer's treat the symptoms associated with it and not the disease itself. It is important for patients and families affected by Alzheimer's to consider participating in clinical studies. They are the best chance we have for fighting this disease.”

Participants for the ICARA study must be between the ages of 50 and 88, have a diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease and have a caregiver who is willing to be involved in the study. A medical team including a nurse or study coordinator and a physician will monitor participants throughout the study.

For more information about the study or to apply to be a participant, call 1-(877)-BE-VITAL or visit www.ICARAstudy.com.

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