Alzheimer's research study focuses on drug treatment to stop disease's progression

Julie Burger's eleventh visit to the Summit Research Network clinic started out like the previous ten. A nurse takes her vital signs. She answers a series of questions posed by drug trial leader Scott Losk. Then it's 90 minutes hooked to an IV line that may or may not contain a new drug compound. Her husband, Les, is at left. Scott Kosk at right. (KATU)

Forgetfulness can be a normal sign of aging, but sometimes mild impairment can be a sign of something more serious.

A drug trial's goal in Portland is underway to see if the early progression of Alzheimer’s disease can be stopped.

Julie Burger's 11th visit to the Summit Research Network clinic started out like the previous 10.

A nurse takes her vital signs.

She answers a series of questions posed by drug trial leader Scott Losk.

Then it's 90 minutes hooked to an IV line that may or may not contain a new drug compound.

Four years ago, her memory began to slip

“I was a math major, and I also had a photographic memory,” Burger said. "In fact, my friends used to hate me because they’d have to study and I would just have to look at it and it would be there. That was the first hint, when I couldn’t remember, even small things.”

Losk has been studying the effects of Alzheimer’s for 30 years. He's hoping a new study -- and the other ongoing treatments Burger has been a part of -- will stop the progression of the disease.

“The GRADUATE Study is a study looking at a new compound called gantenerumab, and gantenerumab lowers amyloid in the brain of people who have amyloid,” Losk said. “Amyloid is one of the earliest pathologies that we see in Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloid is a type of protein that builds up on the outside of neurons and interrupts their function.

“Any kind of blockage in that transmission, the electrical impulses, thinking, thought, memory, become compromised,” Losk said. “This new compound is a hopeful one. We think that if we can get at some of these underlying pathologies in Alzheimer’s we can prevent decline.”

Julie Burger -- who is receiving treatment at Summit but not in the GRADUATE Study -- supports the research if it can help others.

“The only -- in my opinion, bad thing -- you don’t know if you’re on a placebo, which is part of the thing to see the difference,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but you never know.”

The worldwide study is seeking people ages 50 and 90 years old to participate in the research.

Anyone who is experiencing memory or thinking issues is asked to contact the Memory Health Center at Summit Research Network at Montgomery Park.

Contact The Memory Health Center at 503-228-2273 for more information.

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