Clinics to bolster war on dementia

The race to find a cure for dementia received a boost on Monday with the Federal Government announcing that its $18 million investment would be bolstered by $20 million from universities, philanthropists, industry, research centres and state governments.

The new Australian Dementia Network (ADNet) will see the establishment of a chain of memory centres and a registry of clinical trial volunteers in a bid to fast-track research.

There are currently 425,000 Australians living with dementia with another 244 diagnosed every day. Dementia costs are expected to reach $15 billion this year.

According to the Government, ADNet will:

  • establish a national network of memory clinics to speed assessment of cognitive disorders and improve specialist access for Australians, through advanced imaging, genetics and lifestyle data
  • register and prepare volunteers for participation in clinical trials and other research programs, by providing them with state-of-the-art diagnosis and disease tracking
  • collate and compare data to chart dementia causes, progression, risks and potential new treatments
  • ensure Australian and international data can be shared, providing unprecedented research access to global data and collaboration.

ADNet is the largest single project funded through the Government’s $200 million, five-year Boosting Dementia Research Initiative launched in 2014 by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the Turnbull Government’s $18 million investment was the accelerator needed to “win the race against dementia”.

“It’s estimated 1700 Australians a week are joining the population living with dementia and without breakthroughs in beating this disease, that figure will reach 650 a day by 2050,” he said.

“Dementia is already the biggest killer of Australian women and the second most common cause of death among the overall population, claiming more than 13,000 lives each year.

“Through ADNet, Australia joins the international push to use large-scale national registries to expedite research and beat dementia.

“ADNet will lift the standard of Australian dementia diagnosis and care, with a coordinated and consistent approach.

“By significantly increasing public access to, and participation in, clinical trials it will also speed the development and approval of new prevention and treatment therapies.”

ADNet will drive research and deliver improvements through five core teams – registry, clinics, trials, technology and business – with close links to international programs in Europe and the US.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and affects about 50 million people worldwide.

Professor Jurgen Gotz, from the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research based within the Queensland Brain Institute, says: “There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. You can exercise, or diet, but you cannot fix the disease. It’s absolutely important to fund basic research because we need a medical breakthrough.”

The five-year Boosting Dementia Research Initiative, now in its third year, supports 127 projects, and involves 285 researchers and 24 universities and research bodies.

Do you hold out hope of a cure for dementia? Do you modify your lifestyle because of dementia fears?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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