Long-awaited federal funding has been approved for a first-of-its-kind, Boston-led study to test whether drugs can hold off Alzheimer's disease in people who have no symptoms of the illness, but who have an abnormal protein in their brains believed to be a hallmark of the disease.
The National Institutes of Health announced Monday that the clinical trial, to be led by Dr. Reisa Sperling, an Alzheimer's specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, is one of four that will be funded this year to find treatments for the disease.
Sperling's three-year study, which is the largest of the four, will receive the lion's share of the money -- roughly $36 million. The four trials will receive a total of $11 million this year, and could receive as much as $55 million combined over five years, the NIH said.
"I am very excited after all this time to really get started," said Sperling, who has been planning this study for nearly two years.
Sperling's trial will enroll 1,000 adults, aged 70 to 85 years, who have the abnormal proteins, known as amyloid plaques and revealed by brain scans, and who are exhibiting subtle cognitive problems that are typically reported in people years before they are diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
The three-year study will give half of the participants a drug designed to clear amyloid plaques, and the others a placebo, and researchers will track the rate of cognitive decline in both groups.