From simply defining the disease and its effects to identifying steps for dealing with it, KOLR10’s Courageous Conversation series “The Long Goodbye”, has featured medical professionals and patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Doctors from Missouri Memory Center with Citizen’s Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, a leader in Alzheimer’s research in Missouri say the outlook for a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research is good, but it is going to involve participation from doctors and patients to get even better.
Dr. Curtis Schreiber with Missouri Memory Center says Alzheimer’s research has come a long way, and it is being geared towards a certain cases.
“In the past, there wasn’t a lot to help but now we do have a lot of help. We don’t have a cure yet, but if you look at how research is going for Alzheimer’s disease, it has definitely shifted. It has shifted towards the earliest possible stages,” Dr. Schreiber says.
One of Dr. Schreiber’s colleagues, Dr. Robert Denny, presses on the importance of getting ahead of the disease.
“I think that when somebody starts to feel that something isn’t right, or the family notices that something isn’t right, then those would probably be red flags to say ‘Look, we should probably do some screening,'” Dr. Denney says.
Doctors say those early cases that will help most in finding a breakthrough, but it will take willingness for people to come forward.
“The only way that new treatments come through is through research. The only way we can get research done is to get patients on board, and doctors on board, and families on board to participate,” says Dr. Schreiber.
Schreiber says these studies take a lot of time and money. So funding from all levels is just as crucial as participation in studies by patients.
“Is there hope? There is a lot of hope. The funding will help and I think we will be able to say someday that we have that breakthrough,” Dr. Schreiber says.
A recent breakthrough has been in technology. In 2014 was the FDA approval of Amyloid PET imaging. This helps identify a build up of a protein called Amyloid, which blocks cognitive functions — a key sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
“What it shows us is, is there Amyloid deposited in the brain. On the left is a person that doesn’t have Alzheimer’s disease, meaning that is how a normal brain should look. On the right is a brain that has Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Schreiber says.
Amyloid PET imaging is available for patients, but it’s not covered by Medicare or insurance.
“So really the way our patients gain access to this is by participating in research studies,” Dr. Schreiber urges.
While not every study is going to reveal the cure, each step brings us closer to the ultimate goal of finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
“Even a negative research study, even if it doesn’t work — researchers learn from every single study and they find new ideas. So we need to all work together in order to find a solution this problem, and I think we will, but we need to keep working on it,” says Dr. Schreiber.
If you feel that you may be getting some the signs or symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, call Missouri’s Alzheimer’s 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
They can steer you in the right direction to get help as soon as possible.