Public Release: 

Alzheimer's disease center seeks patients for new drug studies

UT Southwestern Medical Center

DALLAS, Texas, August 29, 1996 -- Two major drug trials recently initiated at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas may offer hope for the millions of Americans affected by Alzheimer's disease.

UT Southwestern is one of 30 medical centers across the nation -- and the only one in North Texas -- testing propentofylline, an oral drug for Alzheimer's that also may be effective for patients who experience dementia as a result of strokes. If the medication proves effective, it could improve the condition of patients or at least slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms, said psychiatry research nurse administrator Doris Svetlik. The most common symptoms of the disease are memory loss, confusion, difficulty in finding the correct words for articulate conversation, difficulty recalling names and repetition of previous conversation.

Researchers at UT Southwestern are hoping to enroll about 15 patients and have set a maximum of 24 patients for the study. The 48-week trial is open to men and women between the ages of 40 and 90. They also must have a relative or friend who can take them to regular appointments and respond to researchers' inquiries.

Another major drug study involves SB202026, which is being tested at 35 sites around the United States. UT Southwestern again is the only North Texas testing center. Researchers expect to enroll about 15 patients in the 24-week trial. The oral medication is intended to alleviate the major symptoms of Alzheimer's. The participants, like those in the propentofylline trial, must be coherent enough to answer researchers' questions.

"We are encouraged by the number of new medications being developed for Alzheimer's," said Dr. Myron Weiner, vice chairman for clinical services in psychiatry, assistant professor of neurology, holder of the Aradine S. Ard Chair in Brain Science and director of the clinical core of the National Institutes of Health-funded Alzheimer's Disease Center. "We are hopeful that these new drugs will prove beneficial to at least some of the patients who experience the devastating symptoms of Alzheimer's."

Svetlik said the clinic also has several other drug trials under way. Only one Alzheimer's medication, Cognex, has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. About 25 percent of Alzheimer's patients can tolerate an adequate dose of Cognex, and a quarter of those have shown improvement, Svetlik said.

"After Cognex was approved, we had difficulty recruiting for other drug studies because everyone wanted to be on that drug," she said. "We're now starting to get more interest in these new studies as people realize that one drug doesn't work for everybody."

The cause of Alzheimer's is still a mystery although researchers have made progress in understanding the role played by genes. The new generation of medications target various sections of the brain that degenerate during the course of the disease.

Alzheimer's disease affects approximately 4 million Americans. The UT Southwestern clinic currently sees about 300 patients.

For more information about the new drug studies and other clinic research, call (214) 648-8696.

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