A team from the Beaumont Research Institute of Southfield-based Beaumont Health is studying whether low-dose radiation could be a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and are seeking patients with the disease for the study.
In early pre-clinical studies, image-guided radiation was found to be effective in reducing brain plaques, or a protein called beta-amyloid, that accumulate in the brain. It is widely believed that the buildup of these proteins causes cognitive impairments leading to the disease.
The team has been studying the use of low-dose radiation therapy to treat Alzheimer’s in several models and is the first to study image-guided radiation for Alzheimer’s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the researchers approval for a study designed to examine effects of radiation on people with moderate-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is taking place at the Beaumont hospitals in Farmington Hills and Royal Oak.
Patients who are interested in participating in the study must have moderate stage Alzheimer’s disease and will undergo whole brain radiation treatments. Those who meet the study criteria and consent will receive treatments for five consecutive days for 15 minutes or less each day. Cognitive testing, quality of life assessment, and PET scans to examine amyloid plaque will be done before and after radiation to determine if the treatment affects disease progression after four, six, and 12 months. Potential toxicity will also be monitored.
“Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and current pharmaceuticals have had limited success. Pharmaceuticals are costly and time consuming to develop,” says George Wilson, a radiobiologist and researcher. “In contrast, radiation therapy is a proven treatment for cancer and can be done safely, quickly, and inexpensively.”
The researchers believe the treatment could reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s while not producing further cognitive deficits.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. Close to 6 million Americans live with the disease, which cost the nation $290 billion in 2019. By 2050, 14 million are expected to have it, costing the U.S. $1 trillion.
For more information about the study, contact Evie Russell at Beaumont, Farmington Hills at Evelyne.Russell@beaumont.org or Joanne Gondert at Beaumont, Royal Oak at Joanne.Gondert@beaumont.org.