Funding for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's research

November 11, 2008

Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Plymouth, have received a grant funding of £2million over the next five years from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to investigate new ways of developing clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Around 417,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer's disease, while 120,000 people are affected by Parkinson's disease with 10,000 new cases diagnosed every year. The effect of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease on the health of the general population and pressures on health services can only become more acute as life expectancy increases.

There are currently treatments that help the symptoms of both conditions, especially Parkinson's disease, but there are no treatments that slow the deterioration that is the hallmark of both diseases over time - despite much effort spent on testing new treatments.

The programme of study which is funded by the NIHR investment will evaluate treatments for Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, especially in relation to clinical trials, the time they take to come to a conclusion, and their cost.

It is thought that part of the reason for the current lack of treatments is the relatively slow process of development of research into clinical trials. If the effect of a treatment is to be assessed it can take years for a clinical trial to reach a conclusion - long clinical trials are usually associated with high drop out rates and high costs. It is also difficult to evaluate what the results of trials mean to those with Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, and those around them.

The study will cover four main areas. The first will investigate the measurements from clinical trials from the perspective of patients and their carers, and the impact on their daily lives. The second will look at alternative ways of measuring how the diseases progress (from 'surrogate measures', particularly from scans and body fluid measures) by using existing electronic NHS resources. The third will investigate new ways of analysing statistics from trials, making trials shorter and less expensive. The fourth will being together the findings of the study to influence clinical trial design, so that clinical trials can identify more treatments quickly.

Professor John Zajicek, Consultant Neurologist at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust and Professor of Clinical Neuroscience from the Peninsula Medical School, commented: "Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are having a growing impact on the health of the nation, as life expectancy increases. We have no treatments than can slow deterioration over time, and clinical trials to identify such treatments take time and resources. Our programme aims to deliver recommendations for the treatment evaluation and monitoring of the development of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, with the end objective of producing treatments quickly, economically and that are relevant to those who need them."

Professor Zajicek added: "We are delighted to have been awarded £2million over five years in this NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research. The funding will allow us to make a real difference to the long term treatment of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's."

The Peninsula Medical School is a joint entity of the University of Exeter, theUniversity of Plymouth and the NHS in the South West of England, and a partner of the Combined Universities in Cornwall. The Peninsula Medical School has created for itself an excellent national and international reputation for groundbreaking research in the areas of diabetes and obesity, neurological disease, child development and ageing, clinical education and health technology assessment.

This news release presents independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

About the National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world-class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients.

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

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