April 21, 2024

Thousands of people across the UK who are worried about their memory will receive blood tests for dementia in two trials which doctors hope will help revolutionize the low rate of diagnosis.

Teams from the University of Oxford and University College London will lead the trials to research the use of cheap and simple tests to detect proteins for people with early stages of dementia or problems with cognition, with the hope of speeding up diagnosis and reach more people.

Currently, getting a formal diagnosis in the UK depends on mental ability tests, brain scans or invasive and painful lumbar punctures, where a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is drawn from the lower back.

Around 1 million people live with the condition in Britain, and this is expected to rise to around 1.7 million by 2040 – with potentially grim consequences. In 2022, dementia claimed the lives of 66,000 people in England and Wales, and it is now the leading cause of death in Britain, with Alzheimer’s responsible for two-thirds of cases.

Patients and their families were reported waiting up to four years to get an appointment and the results, according to charities. More than one in three people living with dementia in England are yet to receive a formal diagnosis.

The tests are highly effective in research settings, so if they prove as useful in real life, they could make diagnosing Alzheimer’s more accessible.

They can provide patients with results much sooner and accelerate the introduction of new Alzheimer’s drugs that rely on early diagnosis. The trial will help determine whether they can be regularly rolled out on the NHS.

Fiona Carragher, the director of research and advocacy at the Alzheimer’s Association, said the reliance on specialized tests had led to “unnecessary delays, worry and uncertainty” which meant people were often unable to access the care they needed early on. do not have.

“Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer, but a third of people living with dementia don’t have a diagnosis, meaning they don’t have access to care and support. At the moment, only 2% of people can with dementia access the specialized tests needed to be eligible for new treatments, leading to unnecessary delays, worry and uncertainty,” she said.

The research teams are sponsored by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, with £5m of funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Dr Sheona Scales, the director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We have seen the enormous potential that blood tests show to improve the diagnostic process for people and their loved ones in other disease areas. Now we need to see the same step change in dementia, which is the biggest health challenge facing the UK.

“It’s fantastic that by working with the leading experts in the dementia community we can look to bring the latest blood tests for the diagnosis of dementia into the NHS. And it will be key to expanding access to groundbreaking new treatments that are on the horizon.”

More than 50 memory clinics across the UK will offer blood tests to around 5,000 volunteers as part of the five-year trial.

Jonathan Schott, the chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, will lead a trial on the most promising blood biomarker in tests on 1,100 people across the UK.

The second trial will test for various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies in about 4,000 people.

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