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Dementia Research: Trials and Participation

July 31, 2014

By Editor
If you’re even remotely interested in current events, you have likely come across stories or articles about Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The media attention dementia has received over the last number of years is reflective of the profound societal effect the disease imparts on us all.  Overall this attention is a good thing; there needs to be more awareness about this most complex of cognitive disorders.
 
The news we see about dementia is largely focused on its mystery; how its exact cause is unknown and how effective treatment and a potential cure for it is so ellusive. The portrait of dementia in the media isn’t a pretty one. It also isn’t inaccurate but things aren’t as bleak as they sometimes seem.
 
Today, more support systems than ever before are in place to help people live better with dementia and the focus and awareness on the disease has seen more funding and more dedicated effort directed to research.  Certainly many of the treatment results haven’t been as hoped, but every setback should and could be viewed as positive stepping-stones.
 
It’s important for the scientific community and the general public to feel hopeful that progress can continue to be made in treatments for the disease and in finding a possible cure. Dr. Michael Borrie, the Medical Director for the Aging Brain and Memory Clinic/Geriatric Clinical Trials Group at St. Joseph’s Parkwood Hospital, identifies how the public can impact in this work; participation in clinical studies. Participating in research through these clinical trials, many executed here in London and in collaboration with national and international research partners, is a meaningful contribution we can make to better understand the disease. Dr. Borrie provides six reasons why people should consider volunteering for research trials.
1.    The placebo effect; even though some people in clinical trials are given a placebo instead of the medication being studied, their belief in the treatment leads to a positive response to the placebo. 
2.    People involved in clinical trials are assessed more frequently. At least 30 percent have a previously undetected or untreated condition identified while in the study.
3.    Participants in the studies engage with care providers who understand their condition, and refer them to resources available in the community.
4.    Memory testing in clinical studies stimulates and challenges the brain and thought processes.  Different types of mental stimulation help preserve brain function.
5.      At the end of some drug trials there is often the opportunity for participants to try the medication being studied beyond the “blinded” phase of the trial. 
  1. Perhaps the most important reason is altruism—unselfishly volunteering to participate in the trial, knowing they may not benefit themselves, but that someone in the future, possibly a neighbour or family member, will benefit, and that by volunteering they are contributing to research knowledge.
According to Dr. Borrie there is a pressing need for volunteer research subjects. You can learn more about clinical trials by visiting our website www.alzheimerlondon.ca or contact Parkwood Hospital at 519-685-4292 Ext. 46600 or email memory@sjhc.london.on.ca.