Saturday, April 23, 2011

Alzheimer’s Drug May Benefit Patients with Frontotemporal Dementia

In a partnership with University of California—San Francisco (UCSF), Northwestern University is conducting a study to determine if Namenda, a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), can double as a treatment for Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).

Namenda (memantine) is used to decrease abnormal activity in the brain of patients suffering from AD. According to the Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Namenda may reduce damage done to brain cells of those suffering from FTD, Alzheimer’s lesser-known cousin.

Both AD and FTD are forms of dementia. While AD is more likely to occur in men and women over age 60 and works its way into different parts of the brain, FTD generally appears earlier, between ages 40-60, and affects the frontal temporal lobe in the brain.

Both diseases devastate parts of the brain involving memory, language, behavior and motor functions. These behavior changes are not only embarrassing and hugely debilitating for those who suffer from FTD, but also for their caregivers.

While there is no cure for FTD, Namenda may stall the behavioral decline characteristic of FTD patients. Robert Nicholson, the research coordinator for the eight-month study, said he could not comment on the efficacy of the medication because the study is ongoing.

The UCSF-sponsored study will take place at Northwestern’s clinic. Volunteers, who must be already diagnosed with FTD, will undergo extensive memory testing, thinking skill evaluations, and physical and neurological exams. Volunteers will also take Namenda or a placebo pill twice a day.

Kristine Lipowski, the study’s coordinator, said Northwestern is looking to enroll eight more subjects by this summer. There will be 14 total. “We should have the results by April or May of next year,” she said.

-Kate Midden

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