Alzheimer’s ‘an emotional rollercoaster’ for family members

Published 7:47 am Sunday, February 6, 2022

By Rita Lebleu

American Press

One of the many pharmaceutical companies sponsoring studies to develop a therapy to slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s disease  is conducting research right here in Lake Charles. Researchers are looking for individuals aged 55-80 with normal memory and thinking to participate.

More than one in nine people who are age 65 or older have Alzheimer’s. The percentage increases with age. More than a third of the population aged 85 and older have it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Fast Facts and Figures.

“Your brain may show signs of Alzheimer’s disease before you notice any changes in your memory or ability to think clearly,” said Kira Rice, clinical research coordinator at Clinical Trials of SWLA.

Tina Lyles, 56, responded to the call for participants because her father, age 78, has the disease. Screened participants who pass a short mental assessment are tested to find out if they have a particular biomarker.

“I wanted to make plans ahead of time so my children wouldn’t have to assume my care and experience some of the things I have since I’ve started caring for my father,” she said.

“He started having memory problems, not just the occasional forgetting a person’s name, but he would mix up words for normal, everyday objects,” she said. “Some days I go in my bathroom, shut the door and cry. He does things he would have never done before the disease. Other days I laugh to keep from crying.”

Once he asked her if Tina had ever gotten out of jail. (She’s Tina, and she’s never been in jail.) She likened her experience to having a 2-year-old in the house. She constantly reminds herself that this man is still her father and it is the disease that makes it necessary for her to instruct him to eat and requires her to clean his bathroom after every use. He has been violent with her grandson.

Susan Coyne is 70 and participating in the study that, for her, involves infusions and MRIs. Her father was a Sulphur pharmacist and her mother, a business owner.

“Both died of the disease, and I worry about having  it,” she said. “Dad took care of mom and when mom passed away, I could tell he had it also. He lived five years and I took care of him. It’s not a fun disease to watch.”

She is participating in the Lilly TRAILBLAZER  ALZ3 testing mainly because she wants to be involved in helping find a treatment.

“I don’t want my children to have to care for me,” she said, “and I want to be a part of a program that could mean my children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren don’t have to worry about this disease.”

The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t fully understood. But at a basic level, brain proteins fail to function normally, which disrupts the work of brain cells (neurons) and triggers a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connection to each other and eventually die.

“Once neurons are destroyed, it’s too late,” Rice said. “The work going on now is to prevent it or slow it down.”

Patients are tested for pTau,  a protein found in the bloodstream.

“The pTau test is rather new and not commercially available. It is completed at an out-of-state lab for this study. The test is new and it’s efficacy is still being researched,” Rice said.

This research, sponsored by Eli Lilly & Company, is based, in part, on the PTau results.

Lyles’s test results indicated she does not have the bio marker. Susan Coyne does.

Rice thinks the chances of making such a drug accessible in the future is promising.

“In order to get FDA approval, several phases (I-III), and multiple studies of clinical trials must occur. Phases I-II have been completed and the final, Phase III, is going on now,” Rice said. “Phase II is showing promising results. It consisted of 266 patients currently out two years and still being followed. Phase III is going to enroll 3,300 patients nationwide with the intention of providing results that support the delay or prevention.”

There is no charge to participate.