For Dementia Action Week on International Clinical Trials Day 2019, a unique research group has been launched to test promising new drugs for dementia, including one of the world’s first studies with an antidepressant that could stop the disease progressing.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust has partnered with the University of Cambridge to set up the Gnodde Goldman Sachs Translational Neuroscience Group as part of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UKDRI) at the University of Cambridge, led by Professor Giovanna Mallucci.
The collaboration links CPFT’s top-performing Windsor Research Unit with international research facilities on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, funded by a generous philanthropic donation from Kara and Richard Gnodde through Goldman Sachs Gives, and supported by the National Institute for Health Research. The new research group aims to accelerate the path from research to transform care by linking world-leading laboratory work with patients in the community. Kara Gnodde said: “We were convinced that a team that could focus on concrete translational goals had potential to build a very powerful bridge between the UK Dementia Research Institute and the clinical community, and on the enormous potential at Cambridge across psychiatry and neurology. We are delighted to be supporting this incredible endeavour.”
Professor Mallucci, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Associate Director of the UK DRI at the University of Cambridge (pictured centre) said: “Exciting progress has been made over the last ten years in identifying new potential drugs for treating dementia. The challenge is how to translate these exciting scientific discoveries to benefit patients. Laboratory tests show that the production of essential proteins needed to keep brain cells alive and functioning is often disrupted in mouse models of dementia. We have been able to identify the cellular pathway that controls this and potential drugs to restore it. One drug which does this in the laboratory is trazodone, used for many years as an antidepressant, which is a licensed drug and can therefore quickly enter trials. The group has already developed a novel brain scan which can look at protein production in the brain in patients which can be used to reveal if the drug is having an effect.”
Dr Ben Underwood, consultant psychiatrist and clinical trials lead for the Translational Neuroscience Group (pictured right) said: “The Trust provides dementia care for thousands of patients in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and this partnership will bring them the latest research and treatments from the lab. As a doctor, it is so exciting to see the groundbreaking work in medical journals become real treatments which we can evaluate in patients. Finding new treatments which slow the disease down is essential if we are to improve the outlook for these conditions, and trazodone has the potential to be one of these drugs. The team at the Windsor Research Unit have recruited the first patients to test it.”
The pioneering trial will compare brain scans of patients with and without a diagnosis to assess whether healthy proteins are being produced in patients taking trazodone. The cutting-edge brain scan is the first of its kind to be used in a UK clinical setting (first images are shown in the photo).
The group has worked closely with Professor John O’Brien, NIHR Specialty Lead for Dementia and consultant in old age psychiatry at CPFT (pictured left), to set up the study. He said: “If the trial is successful it could potentially revolutionise dementia treatment and provide patients with the first effective drug to significantly slow down or stabilise their condition, or even reverse dementia for people in the early stages. All patients should be offered an opportunity to try new treatments and take part in research, and this new group offers the chance for local residents to be part of major new advances in understanding and treating dementias, working with international experts in top facilities.”
If you would like to support research to improve care and treatment for dementia you can make a donation to CPFT’s Windsor Research Unit by visiting the Head To Toe charity website: www.headtotoecharity.org, call 01223 219708 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the University of Cambridge Development and Alumni Relations Office and fundraising activities visit: www.philanthropy.cam.ac.uk