August 29, 2016

How Close Are We to a Cure For Alzheimer’s?

drcummingsAlzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in America. It’s the only disease in the top 10 causes of death with no prevention, cure or treatment that halts the progression of the disease. As the number of older Americans is on the rise, many people are worried about this disease and want to know, “How close are we to a cure for Alzheimer’s?”

Here’s an insightful answer from Dr. Jeffrey Cummings, Director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and team leader for HealthyBrains.org.

A Message from Our Director

One question I am asked at nearly every public presentation is, “How close are we to a cure for Alzheimer’s?” No one can give a definite date for a cure or a meaningful treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the process for achieving such a globally important milestone is clear. Whether we are one step away or 100 steps away, the next step must be testing of promising new treatments in clinical trials. Clinical trials are the only mechanism through which the FDA will approve drugs that can become widely available and can stop the tsunami of Alzheimer’s that is rushing toward us.

Clinical trials involve treating individuals who have symptoms of Alzheimer’s or who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Participants are assigned to a treatment or placebo, and neither the patient nor the doctor knows who is on active treatment and who is on placebo. All agents that will eventually be considered by the FDA must be tested in trials that include placebos. While some individuals are concerned that a placebo assignment is “wasting time,” this approach is the only means of generating valid data, and clinical trials are the only means of accessing promising therapies that are not yet approved.  

We are very grateful to those who participate in the clinical trials at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. These citizen-scientists are willing to accept some uncertainty in return for advancing our understanding of new therapies that may be critically important to the world, to their families and to themselves.  

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health conducts clinical trials in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. The center has one of the largest clinical trials programs for Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics in the United States. We have an exciting repertoire of new treatments that we are testing, and we are more enthusiastic about the current drugs than we have ever been. We may be one step away or 100 steps away, but we know that this is the way forward to find a breakthrough for Alzheimer’s.

I encourage you to consider taking a step with us: Visit clevelandclinic.org/brainhealthtrials for a list of active trials and healthybrains.org for more information on participating in clinical trials.

Jeffrey L. Cummings, MD, ScD
Camille and Larry Ruvo Chair for Brain Health
Director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
Director, Center for Neurodegeneration and Translational Neuroscience
Professor, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine