An Indiana University School of Medicine researcher will direct a $45 million research program to study early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
A one-year, $7.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging will set the groundwork for the research, which is designed to provide a better understanding of how people develop the rare strain of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Liana G. Apostolova, the Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research at IU School of Medicine, will lead the study.
Researchers will establish a network of sites across the country and enroll a large number of Alzheimer's patients. The work will set the stage for an early-onset Alzheimer's disease clinical trial network. While the risk of the disease rises with age, about 5 percent of patients develop symptoms before age 65.
Denise Saxman, program director for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Indiana, said the state has been selected as one of the study sites. The research is welcome because early-onset patients are often overlooked for clinical research and therapeutic trials, she explained. Alzheimer's disease isn't the first thing that comes to mind when a 55-year-old describes memory loss or other symptoms to a physician.
“Because it is a rare diagnosis, those are often the people who are left out of the studies,” Saxman said. “These people are under 65, so the psycho-social issues are pretty significant. They may still be the primary breadwinner. They may still be working or have children at home. It creates a whole new level of burden.”
The Alzheimer's Association maintains a matching service for clinical trials. Patients and caregivers can submit a profile to find a list of trials for which they might qualify. It's available at www.alz.org/research/clinical_trials/find_clinical_trials_trialmatch.asp