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New Alzheimer’s disease drug trial opens across Scotland

Press release issued: 17 November 2015

People with Alzheimer’s disease who live in Scotland are being asked to consider taking part in a ground-breaking government-funded trial. The trial is investigating if a drug normally used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) has additional properties that could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in people with and without hypertension.

Led by academics from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast, and University College London and hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust, this multi-centre clinical trial, will investigate if losartan, a blood pressure drug that first became available in 1995, can complement current treatments for AD. The researchers believe losartan can slow down the progression of AD by improving brain blood flow and altering chemical pathways that cause brain cell damage, brain shrinkage and memory problems in AD.

The trial known as RADAR (Reducing pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease through Angiotensin taRgeting), is hoping to recruit approximately 230 participants, together with a similar number of carers, from across the UK including sites covering the Tayside, Lothian, Grampian, Glasgow, Border and Lanarkshire areas, all of which are partners in the Scottish Dementia Clinical Research Network (SDCRN). 

As part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, funding of nearly £2 million was awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, an MRC and NIHR partnership. 

The RADAR study is a double blinded placebo-controlled randomised trial, meaning that some participants will be randomly assigned to receive either the study drug or a placebo and nobody will know until the end who received which. This is one of the most powerful study designs available.

People with Alzheimer’s disease who have high or normal blood pressure can take part if they meet certain eligibility criteria and RADAR will use brain imaging to measure whether losartan reduces the rate of brain shrinkage that is known to occur in AD.  It will also be using what are standard questionnaires on memory performance and quality of life – important indicators of whether the drug might be helpful.

Professor Pat Kehoe, Gestetner Professor of Translational Dementia Research in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol, who is leading the trial, said: “The involvement of patients and their carers at the various academic and NHS-associated dementia research centres working with this UK-based trial will be instrumental in helping to test if losartan will be a future treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Professor Peter Connelly, who last month became Champion and Director of SDCRN, added: “We are absolutely delighted that so many SDCRN sites are able to offer people with Alzheimer’s disease in many parts of Scotland the opportunity to take part in this important study. Regretfully there are only a limited number of places we can offer to potential participants at each of the sites so we hope people will be getting in touch to find out more.”

Professor Kehoe and his team are using Join Dementia Research to help with recruitment to the study. The Join Dementia Research service allows anyone with and without dementia to sign up using basic demographic and health information and be matched to dementia research studies in their area. Research teams can then approach potential volunteers about their particular study and the volunteer can decide whether to take part on a case-by-case basis.

People can sign up to Join Dementia Research to see if they are a potential match to the RADAR study either online at or by contacting one of the charity helplines of Alzheimer Scotland, tel 0808 808 3 000 or Alzheimer’s Research UK, tel 0300 111 5 111. Alternatively, they can contact the Scottish Dementia Clinical Research Network directly on tel 01738 562322.

Further information

Further information, including more detailed contact details for each of the participating centres in Scotland can be obtained from SDCRN.

About the National Institute for Health Research Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme

1. The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme supports later-phase “science-driven” clinical trials and evaluative studies, which seek to determine whether a health intervention (e.g. a drug, diagnostic technique or device) works and in some cases how or why it works.  The EME Programme is funded by the MRC and NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.

3. The Medical Research Council (MRC) is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Thirty-one MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

About North Bristol NHS Trust
North Bristol NHS Trust provides hospital and community healthcare to the residents of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset and we are also a specialist regional centre for major trauma, neurosciences, plastics and burns, orthopaedics and renal services.

About Join Dementia Research
Join Dementia Research is funded by the Department of Health and delivered in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research, Alzheimer Scotland, Alzheimer's Research UK and Alzheimer's Society.

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