Glimmer of hope for Alzheimer’s disease sufferers

Hope may be on its way for sufferers of Alzheimer’s Disease as the Griffith Health Institute seeks participants for new research.

The trials, which will take place at the new state-of-the-art Griffith Health Centre on the Gold Coast, are focussing on a drug which is primarily used to treat inflammatory conditions.

Progressive dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and related forms such as frontotemporal dementia and semantic dementia represents an enormous health problem in Australia and worldwide. Currently no approved medical therapies can prevent the long-term clinical deterioration caused by these conditions.

Now researcher Associate Professor Stephen Ralph and his team of clinical investigators is calling for participants aged 78 or older with Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, to take part in clinically approved trials with a drug called Entanercept (Enbrel).

Approved by the US Federal Drug Administration for many years as a therapy to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, it has a well-characterised safety profile for these uses. Clinical studies in the US have shown that an Enbrel injection into the base of the neck provides marked and rapid improvements in the mental alertness and responses of dementia patients.

Associate Professor Ralph says he is excited by the potential that the trials represent.

“I am really confident, given the outcomes from this drug so far, that we will see very encouraging results in this particular group of people. The anecdotal evidence so far with Enbrel is extremely positive, with about 10-12 people in Australia showing noticeable improvements in their condition.”

The study will run for a three month period during which participants will receive between eight and twelve injections.

“This is a randomised double blind clinical trial whereby we will use both a placebo and active treatment to gain clear and distinct results,” says Associate Professor Ralph.

“Depending on participants’ responses, they could receive up to twelve injections.

Associate Professor Ralph says the results of the research are expected to be available approximately 6-12 months after the conclusion of the trials.

“Looking to the future, I am hoping for further studies to be conducted with this drug which could then potentially lead to it becoming generally available.”

Interested participants for this study must meet the following basic criteria:

  • 78 years or older
  • Diagnosed with Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Have a score between 10 and 20 on the Mini Mental Standard Examination (MMSE) with a slow rate of decline of 3 to 5 points per year since their initial diagnosis.
  • Live on the Gold Coast for the duration of involvement in this study (up to three months of treatment)
  • Patients who meet the full enrolment criteria will also have an APOE4 blood test before they can be considered eligible.
  • Those who wish to pursue the study further are asked to discuss the entry criteria with their GP in the first instance.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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