As people all over the world are living longer, finding better treatments for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease has become one of the great challenges of the 21st century. While new research has begun to unlock some of the reasons these complex diseases occur, drug development for brain disease lags far behind that in other areas of medicine.
It has been more than 13 years since the last Alzheimer’s medication was approved but, during that period, more than 100 new cancer drugs have been brought to market. Drug development for brain diseases is complicated and expensive; with a failure rate approaching 99 percent, it is understandable that many drug companies have turned their focus away from brain diseases. Yet, with an expected explosion in the number of people developing Alzheimer’s disease in the next decade, it is crucial that we find more effective treatments.
The solution to the world’s brain disease epidemic is to find what are called disease-modifying therapies. Unlike treatments that alleviate the symptoms associated with a disease, disease- modifying therapies slow or delay the onset of a disease. The only way to test whether these therapies are effective is through clinical trials. Clinical trials test new drugs in participants who have or are at high risk of developing a disease, and monitor how these participants do compared with those who receive a placebo. Strict regulations are followed to ensure that these new drugs are safe.
Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is committed to finding more effective treatments for brain disease through clinical trials. Our clinical trials program has grown into one of the largest in the country, conducting more than 65 research studies and clinical trials since its inception in 2010. The program has attacked brain disease from a variety of angles and, in the process, has contributed greatly to our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Through partnerships with the National Institutes of Health, academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies, new candidate agents are being tested every day at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
Here are just a few examples of the exciting research our team is pursuing:
- A study of whether antibodies directed against amyloid, a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease, will slow the progress of the disease in the early stages
- A first-of-its-kind study to determine if early immunotherapy in people at high risk for multiple sclerosis reduces the risk of developing the disease
- A first-of-its-kind investigation of the effects of a powerful antioxidant on brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease
- A study of whether an antioxidant given in early Parkinson’s disease affects the disease course
New research and technological advances have made this an exciting time for brain research. We are now closer than ever in our search for better treatments for brain diseases. Determining whether these new therapies are effective, however, will depend on having enough patients willing to participate in clinical trials.
If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about the clinical trials program at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, visit clevelandclinic.org/brainhealthtrials for a list of active trials or contact us at [email protected].
by Aaron Ritter, M.D.
About the Author
Aaron Ritter, MD, received his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtained his medical degree from the University of Colorado. He completed an internship in pediatrics and residency training in psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson, followed by a fellowship in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, where he is now Director, Clinical Trials Program.