In conversation with Dr Bill Brooks
Tell us about your work with families with the genetic form for Alzheimer’s disease
I have been working with these families for over 25 years and we are involved here at NeuRA with a global research study called DIAN (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network). This study set out to look for biological changes that occur in people before they develop the Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss. Over the last two years, we have been working on a clinical trial aimed at preventing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, by removing amyloid from the brain, before symptoms develop and before the nerve cells deteriorate. It has been a lot of work for us – and it’s an even more demanding task for the clinical trial participants, but it is all going well so far.
What is the next big step in the DIAN program?
By the end of this year everyone in the study worldwide will have been on the double-blind phase of the trial for two years, so at the end of this year, we will start looking at the data to examine the evidence and results which will frame the next phase of this ground-breaking research program.
What does the next phase of the research look like?
The next phase of the DIAN trial, as far as the first two drugs are concerned, is that they will be reviewed to see whether they have a significant influence on reducing amyloid deposition in the brain. If so, the trial participants will go on for another two years, to see if we the trial can demonstrate an effect on people’s memory and thinking. We also have plans to start a third drug arm this year. This process will roll on until a breakthrough is discovered which prevents the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
How do you feel being at the pointy end of science?
When I was a medical student there was no treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s. It was not even on the horizon. It was thought probably to be one of those things, which were just not treatable. Over the last couple of decades, we have seen gradual but major increases in our knowledge, and we are now in a position where we hope we can make the same inroads into Alzheimer’s as we have into cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Here at NeuRA, we are really proud to be part of this international effort to find a preventative drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. For me it’s a culmination of many decades of work. To be stepping closer to discovery is what drives us all to keep pushing into the next phase of the DIAN research program.
We need your help to keep clinical trial running in Australia to make sure that the next phase of the trial is completed. You can donate at neura.edu.au/donate/
Associate Professor Tony Roscioli has joined NeuRA as a Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader in Neurogenomics. He is also a Staff Specialist in Clinical Genetics at Sydney Children’s Hospital and is the leader of the SPHERE Genome Connect clinical academic stream. A/Prof Roscioli leads the NHMRC Centre for Research excellence in Neurocognitive Disorders at NeuRA, which endeavours to […]