Date: 21 September 2018
A great-grandad from Cornwall is taking part in a clinical trial looking at whether a diabetes drug can help treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Seventy-eight-year-old Barry Jenkin, a retired meat inspector from Redruth, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in July 2013. At the end of last year he was given the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial evaluating the drug Liraglutide, which is currently used to treat diabetes patients.
Speaking today, on World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21), Barry said he hopes his involvement in the study will help others in the future and has thanked the staff at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for offering him the chance to participate.
“My diagnosis came following a bout of very bad giddiness,” said Barry. “I even had trouble getting out of bed. I went to see a specialist and had an MRI scan which showed furring of the arteries leading to my brain – it’s then they asked if we’d like to see a specialist about Alzheimer’s.”
Recently, Liraglutide has shown promise for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In laboratory studies it improves symptoms of Alzheimer's and reduces the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark of the disease.
The ‘ELAD’ Study, Evaluating Liraglutide in Alzheimer’s Disease, is being led by Dr Paul Edison at Imperial College London and is offered locally by the research team at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
As part of the 12-month study, which involves injecting Liraglutide or a placebo drug daily, Barry and his wife, Mary, have to travel to London’s Hammersmith Hospital twice to undergo testing and scans.
“When the lovely research nurse, Joanne, got in touch with us at the end of last year and mentioned the idea of taking part in the study, Barry said yes right away,” said Mary, a retired supermarket worker who shares three children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren with Barry.
“We had nothing to lose,” she said. “We’d already been told there was no treatment for Barry’s Alzheimer’s so it seemed like a good option.
“We went up to Hammersmith Hospital last November where Barry had lots of different scans and tests. When we came back to Cornwall he was seen by another two doctors locally for further testing and then within a week Barry began the injections.”
Barry will return to Hammersmith Hospital in November, when his 12-months on the trial comes to an end, where his brain will be scanned to look for changes in brain glucose, inflammation and brain volume, all indicators of Alzheimer's. He will also undergo cognitive tests to assess whether there has been any effect on his memory and thinking.
“I feel grateful that my local hospital does research,” he said. “It’s the only way they’re going to find a cure. The team in London, and our local team, have been fantastic and we can’t thank them enough. I just hope my involvement goes on to help others.
“I’d definitely take part in another study and I’d encourage others to do the same – it isn’t doing any harm and it could lead to a big breakthrough for our future generations and our children.”
Mary, who said her husband’s diagnosis had had a big impact on her life, hopes others will be inclined to ask about research opportunities.
“Dementia seems to be taking over,” she said. “It’s everywhere and it’s getting worse. Whatever they need to do, needs to be done – they’ve got to do these trials to find a cure. It’s very important and I’m glad we’ve played our part.”
The ELAD Study is being offered through Join Dementia Research, a joint initiative between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Alzheimer Scotland, Alzheimer's Research UK and Alzheimer's Society which allows people to register their interest in participating in dementia research and be matched to suitable studies.
In the South West more than 2,000 volunteers have registered with Join Dementia Research, since 2015.
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