AHEAD study: Wisconsin participates in global effort to tackle Alzheimer's before symptoms show up

AHEAD study: Wisconsin participates in global effort to tackle Alzheimer’s before symptoms show up

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- In light of the recent FDA fully approved drug that slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease, a local clinical trial is part of a global study that's attempting to further advance that same medication.

It's called the AHEAD study. The international clinical trial is meant for patients who have evidence of brain changes consistent with Alzheimer's disease decades before they develop memory symptoms.

Dr. Cynthia Carlsson is a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a lead investigator in the clinical AHEAD study. She said over 1,000 patients will participate worldwide. In Wisconsin, they currently have about 15 participants, but they're soon hoping to double that number.

"People are ages 55 to 80, and they get a specialized scan as part of the screening process for the study, where they look to see if they have buildup of a protein called amyloid in their brain, and if they do, then they may be eligible to be a part of this study, which uses a medication called Lecanemab to try to clear out the amyloid and hopefully prevent thinking changes, memory loss," Carlsson explained.

Carlsson said it's important that they also acquire diverse patients to participate and be part of the data.

"We hope to increase enrollment of persons from underrepresented backgrounds," she added. "So, people who are African American, Latinx backgrounds, Native American backgrounds, because their risk for dementia seems to be higher overall...we hope if this study proves successful, then a person could go into the doctor and say, 'I have a parent with Alzheimer's disease, could I get tested to see if I have a risk for Alzheimer's?'"

And if they do, Carlsson said the idea is that a blood test would then decide if patients end up getting the IV treatment before it takes over their brain.

To learn more about the AHEAD study, click here.

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