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YOUR HEALTH | Testing a new Alzheimer's drug

Researchers are testing a new drug for patients with early symptoms of the disease.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Treatments have been historically difficult to come by for people with Alzheimer's Disease.

Just one new drug has been approved in the past two decades. 

It's disheartening for people like Cindy Raucci.

She loves to work out. 

It keeps her body and mind healthy. 

Since her dementia diagnosis six years ago, her husband, Frank, is with her around the clock.

Every day, the simple things get harder.

Raucci and her family are constantly searching for new therapies that might stop her decline. 

She participated in one clinical trial in the past.

"I could tell it was helping her and after they closed the study down, I was then informed, probably six months to a year later, that she was actually getting the drug," Frank explained.

Clinical trials involve patients getting the tested drug or a placebo.

Frank thinks that drug was making a difference.

"Lately, in research, we have been using antibody therapy to remove amyloid, to remove tau," explained neurologist Dr. Paul Winner. And they are showing us some benefit."

Winner is now involved in another trial, the LIFT-Alzheimer's disease, or LIFT-AD clinical trial. 

Researchers are testing an investigational drug, known now as ATH-1017, a small injection that patients take at home. 

The goal is to slow down the effects of Alzheimer's on patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

"I see the future, depending on the time that we make the diagnosis, we will use different medicines at different times," Winner said.

Right now, the Raucci's do everything in their power to keep Cindy's mind active and they hope that scientists will find something that stops the progression before it's too late.

"I worry that he has a lot on his hands, and I don't help with," Cindy said. "I worry about how it will be five years from now or three years from no," added Frank.

The LIFT-AD trial is continuing to enroll patients until October 2022. Researchers expect the first results from the trial sometime in 2023.

Another study Getting Attention

New IDEAS is a study from the Alzheimer's Association and the American College of Radiology on mild cognitive impairment and dementia. 

Four thousand of the projected 7,000 New IDEAS participants will be Black and Hispanic. 

Historically, Blacks and Hispanics haven't been represented fully in Alzheimer's and dementia clinical studies and this study seeks to ensure that the results represent all racial and ethnic groups. 

The research study will examine brain amyloid positron emission tomography scans in diverse populations with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. 

Tracking a diagnosis

The first symptoms of Alzheimer's may vary from person to person. 

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer's disease. 

Decline in non-memory aspects of cognition may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and some people may be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. 

As the disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. 

Alzheimer's is often diagnosed at a moderate stage. 

Signs include: 

  • Memory loss
  • Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
  • Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
  • Repeating questions
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Losing things or misplacing them in odd places
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Increased anxiety or aggression.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.meretns@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.