Reversing Alzheimer's: Elkhart Study on Cutting Edge

If you have an aging parent or grandparent, you may be dealing with Alzheimer's.

Five million Americans suffer from the disease and if you live to be 80 you have a 50 percent chance of having some form of Alzheimer's, which affecting thinking, memory and behavior.

Now a local research who has been on the front line of research for years is enrolling patients for a second round of testing on a drug he's been studying since 2009.

If proven, the drug could be the first on the market to treat the disease, rather than the symptoms.

In April 2009, Dr. Thomas Vidic, of the Elkhart Clinic, was chosen as one of 70 sites nationwide enrolling Alzheimer's patients in the Bapi study.

It has shown some promise and is moving into a second phase that could lead to FDA approval.

Dr. Vidic say FDA approval is two fold: "There was another study taking place in Europe that wasn't progressing as fast, but since we were successful in getting patients involved in this second study we are actually, just this week, starting again to enroll patients."

The Elkhart Clinic is the only site in Indiana approved for this research which is accepting up to 400 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimers.

Dr. Vidic was excited to start the Bapi study three years ago, and says while cautious, he is still excited. "We know that we haven't hit a home run, so if this drug does reach the market it will be the first drug to actually treat the alzheimers as opposed to treating the symptoms."

About a third of the patients enrolled in BAPI will get a placebo---the other two thirds will be given differing doses of the drug.

Dr. Vidic hopes studies like these will lead to drugs more effective than what is already on the market. "All of the drugs we have are B minus drugs. They're doing something, They're doing something good, They're not nearly as good as I want them to be."

So, Dr. Vidic, like other researchers, was excited two weeks ago with the announcement that a drug, already on the market for 13 years to treat skin cancer, did something to lab rats with dementia that has researchers worldwide taking notice.

Rats given Bexarotene had a reversal of dementia symptoms with a single dose.

Rodents that had been impaired by an Amyloid protein buildup, know to influence Alzheimer's, resumed normal behavior after 72 hours.

Dr. Vidic explains Bexarotene seems to work much like a vacuum. "Basically what's going on, is that we know this APOE was involved, but we weren't sure how it was involved. The current data, the new research suggests that maybe it's like a vacuum cleaner that cleans off the surface of the cell and gets rid of some of this protein."

While exciting, Dr. Vidic points out other research in mice that has gotten rid of Amyloid buildup did not get rid of Alzheimer's. And he says the side affects of the drug must be considered.

He is still hopeful the Elkhart Clinic will become a trial site for Bexarotene, in addition to the Bapi study, because of what Bexarotene seems to do. "The interesting thing is not only did it make a difference in rats under the microscope in the brain but behaviorally, the rats seemed to function at a higher level. So we're excited."

And Dr. Vidic, who is President of the Indiana Medical Association and is spending more and more time in Washington.

As a researcher, he is pleased President Obama is sending an additional 50-million dollars this year from Health and Human Services Projects to Alzheimer's research. " This is a great time especially with these breakthroughs in rats. We know there is a long way from rats to humans but, at the same time, we are excited about a suddenly different direction."

A direction he says could lead to one day preventing Alzheimer's, "how can we detect people that are age 50 or maybe even 40, that have some tendency for it, and do something up front to keep it from being dementia at age 80? We're going forward, we're making some progress."

Progress, in Elkhart, that could improve the care and quality of life for millions of Americans already suffering, and enough funding to find real treatments by2025 which is the President's goal.

If you would like to find out if you or someone you love might qualify for the Bapi Study at the Elkhart Clinic you can call Mary Beth at 574-296-3903. You can also go to their website:

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