Researchers say a new drug is on the horizon to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and they're testing it right here in Middle Tennessee.
It's called the NOBLE Study of "T-817," a Phase II clinical trial to determine the correct dosage of one of the first new treatments for Alzheimer's disease in more than a decade.
Researchers at Vanderbilt say this is a promising new treatment which can slow the progression and possibly improve symptoms for the devastating diagnosis.
"It's basically a drug that is shown to have neuro-protective effects to prevent the early death of those brain cells that we're trying to preserve in patients with Alzheimer's disease," said Vanderbilt researcher Dr. Leah Acosta.
Vanderbilt is one of 50 clinical trial sites across the country testing the drug.
This is welcome news for patients and the people who love them, such as caregiver Katherine Letterman.
"If it slows down the progression of Alzheimer's disease, it's nothing short of a miracle," she said.
Letterman's husband, Greg, was diagnosed with the disease two and a half years ago.
"I was very proud of him because he said earlier if there is any way I can help people after me who has this insidious disease, I’d be happy to," Letterman said.
When he heard about the one-year trial, he readily agreed, and the benefits were instantaneous.
"He now has hope. There is a huge importance to having hope with this disease because there's so very little of it," Letterman said. "So just the fact he is in the trial, knowing at least he'll help others, but also believing very strongly that it may very well help him. So he has a renewed enthusiasm for life right now, just because he's in the trial."
The trial is a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, which will investigate the effects of a drug that prevents the early death of brain cells.
Some participants will receive the study drug in two different doses. Others will get a sugar pill.
"There are not plateaus with Alzheimer's disease. It's a steady downward move. So this would change our life, and our hope for the future dramatically," Letterman said.
Acosta is looking for patients between the ages of 55 and 85 who have been diagnosed for at least a year and have been on a steady dose of certain medications for at least six months.
Applications to participate in the study have since closed.
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