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Local Researchers Continue the Race Against Alzheimer’s Disease

By Patti Shaffer

Did you know that every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease and that more than 5 million people of all ages are living with this disease?? Unless a cure is found, more than 28 million baby boomers will have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050. Did you also know that one in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s and that Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages brain cells leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. It develops slowly and gradually gets worse as brain function declines. To date there is no treatment to cure Alzheimer’s or stop its progression, only medication to help manage the symptoms. However, they don’t work for everyone. There are also no approved drugs to stop brain damage from this disease.

Scary, isn’t it that we don’t yet have a way to stop this disease. However, there is hope.

Locally in fact, the staff at Rhode Island Mood & Memory Research Institute (RIMMRI) in East Providence, Rhode Island has been actively involved in clinical research trials for the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease for the last 25 years. During that time, they have established an international reputation within the pharmaceutical industry as being a leader in quality patient care, retention and data collection. They have also participated in pivotal trials that have brought all of the currently approved medications to treat Alzheimer disease symptoms to market. Presently, they are now actively involved in cutting-edge research to slow the progression of this disease in its earliest stages and have four different types of trials ongoing looking at passive vaccines.

Dr. John A. Stoukides, is the medical director and principal investigator at RIMMRI. He also serves as the Director of Geriatrics at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and as the Medical Director at Roger Williams Senior Health Care Associates.

Dr. Stoukides explains, “Today, there are many drugs in clinical trials around the world that show progress and so research continues to evolve. The purpose of these trials is to modify and change the disease progressions so those affected by Alzheimer’s won’t continue to decline. The earlier we identify this disease; the earlier we can start them on medication.”

What can we do to help prevent getting Alzheimer’s? “Stay cognitively and physically active,” says Dr. Stoukides. “We also need more people to get involved in clinical research trials. The only way we will ever find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is for people to volunteer for these trials. The more people get involved, the sooner we can find a cure or a drug that slows progression of this disease. “

He adds, “Someday there will be prevention and a cure to stop Alzheimer’s from progressing—however it will take 5 to 10 years in clinical trials to find out. Every drug on the market has had to go through the same process. We are asking Rhode Islanders to help us end Alzheimer’s disease.”

Rhode Island Mood & Memory Research Institute will begin a new five-year long placebo controlled study in June and are looking for people between the ages of 60 to 75 to participate who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease but do not currently have a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or exhibit any significant symptoms of memory loss. Participants will be tested for the AD gene and also receive a PET scan during screening to determine eligibility. If eligible, they will receive study medication for five years at no cost to them.

“We need to treat early to prevent Alzheimer’s or catch it in its early stages,” emphasizes Dr. Stoukides. “Clinical research trials are the only way we can find a cure.”

For anyone interested in participating in one of the many clinical trials at The Rhode Island Mood & Memory Research Institute, visit their office at 1018 Waterman Avenue, in East Providence or call 401.435.8950 for a free memory screen to learn if you are eligible for the program. You can also check out their website at: www.RIMMRI.com or on Facebook. All studies are free of charge and health coverage is not required for participation.