Clinical Studies Open for Alzheimer’s Patients

Research subjects are needed to develop new treatments

Part of the Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Personal Stories, Research, Advice Special Report

Today in the U.S., more than five million people are living with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. As we have begun to live longer, rates of Alzheimer’s have grown dramatically and, along with other dementias, it is now the third leading cause of death in the United States among seniors.

Encouraging strides are being made toward early intervention and preventative therapies in Alzheimer’s disease. However, at the same time, its clinical researchers cannot — and will not — leave anyone behind as the research progresses.

New Drugs Few and Far Between

We are well aware that new therapies are desperately needed for people currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. No new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Alzheimer’s since 2003. The NOBLE study, which my university is participating in, aims to address that.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, develops when nerve cells in the brain no longer function normally, causing a change in one’s memory.

No new drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Alzheimer's since 2003.

Mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s signals the stage at which the decline in cognitive function becomes apparent to friends and family. Symptoms of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s include everything from increased difficulty performing simple tasks such as paying bills, to forgetfulness about one’s own personal history and becoming moody and withdrawn in social situations.

The Toll on Caregivers

For those who have ever loved or cared for someone with Alzheimer’s, it becomes apparent that doing so often becomes a full time job, impacting quality of life not only for the patient but for the caregiver as well. For caregivers, the gradual but permanent decline in their loved one’s mental and physical capabilities often takes a deep emotional and psychological toll.

Researchers at Southern Illinois University and other clinical research organizations are committed to providing patients with access to studies that will help advance research on Alzheimer’s at all stages of the disease.

Study Needs Volunteers

To push this initiative forward, Southern Illinois University (SIU) is participating in the NOBLE Study, a clinical trial of an investigational medication. The medication uses a neuroprotectant approach that has been tried successfully in many central nervous system disorders, including stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The study will focus on evaluating the treatment specifically for those with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

The NOBLE study, which will include 450  participants, is one example of ways patients and their families can play a critical role in helping researchers find new treatment approaches to improve the lives of those impacted by Alzheimer’s.

The study is open to participants at 50 locations around the country; we at Southern Illinois University look forward to working with the Midwestern community to meet this pressing health care challenge.

Interested in the Study?

If you would like to learn more about the NOBLE study at SIU, please contact Barbara Cray Lokaitis at [email protected].

Participants will be screened for eligibility and must be:

  • Aged 55 to 85 with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stable on donepezil (Aricept®) or rivastigimine (Exelon® Patch) treatment
  • Living in the community, including assisted living (but not a nursing home)
  • Have a study partner who has regular contact and who will attend study visits
  • Weigh no more than 220 pounds

More information on the NOBLE Study and additional locations participants may join can also be found here.


By Thomas Ala, M.D.
Tom Ala, M.D., is interim director and associate professor of clinical neurology with the Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, Department of Neurology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, Ill.  For 12 years prior to coming to SIU, Dr. Ala was the lead physician for the Memory Disorder Clinic at Regions Hospital, part of the University of Minnesota system, in St. Paul, Minn.  He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

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