Vivian Hill’s mum Mary suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for eight years before she died. It was a bereavement twice over. The disease took away the person she knew, and there was nothing doctors could do. A new test in the drugs that are likely to follow, could spare other families the despair.
“We knew that she was going to slowly deteriorate from a vibrant, happy woman, to somebody who was bedridden for the last three years of her life, who couldn’t talk, communicate, or do anything herself. It’s horrible, to know that once you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s a slow, horrible journey.”
The new test developed at King’s College London detects Alzheimer’s Disease in its early stages, when there are changes in the brain, but there aren’t yet any debilitating symptoms. It screens for ten key proteins in the blood of patients with mild memory problems. Together, they predict with an accuracy of eighty-seven percent, which patients will go on to develop Alzheimer’s over the next year. And it will allow clinical trials of experimental drugs when they are most likely to be effective.
“A drug that worked in a pre-clinical phase, would feel like prevention, you go along to your doctor, you take a drug, and in effect, you would have the clinical symptoms prevented, even if the disease had already started in your brain.”
The test will be used for clinical trials at first, charities warn it needs further refinement, and isn’t ready to be used by GP’s to diagnose patients. “You have false positives which is where the test will say actually you have a condition or in this case, you are liable to get Alzheimer’s Disease, but in fact the test is wrong. If this was some benign condition, then one wouldn’t be bothered. But we know that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease is the most feared diagnosis currently. So it’s really very important to understand that point.” Further, larger trials of the test are already underway, and it could be ready in as little as two years.