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Thousands of dementia patients to be offered diagnostic blood test

Thousands of people experiencing memory problems will be offered a blood test to aid dementia diagnosis as part of two UK-wide clinical trials.

Thousands of people experiencing memory problems will be offered a blood test to aid dementia diagnosis as part of two UK-wide clinical trials.

The five-year trials, conducted by the University College London and the University of Oxford, will include around 5,000 participants recruited from memory clinics across the UK.

The READ-OUT trial will test patients with multiple forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies; while the ADAPT study will develop a test specifically for Alzheimer’s disease.

While research studies have shown promising results for diagnostic blood tests, they are yet to be widely tested on ‘real life’ populations.

Blood test could identify multiple forms of dementia

The READ-OUT study, led by Dr Vanessa Raymont, a clinical researcher at the University of Oxford, will recruit roughly 4,000 people.

Dr Raymont’s team will test multiple existing and novel blood tests for a range of types of dementia, as well as evaluating whether these blood tests can help detect these diseases at various stages.

Dr Raymont says she hopes the test will help to provide dementia patients with a timely and accurate diagnosis, enabling them to access early treatment and support.

“Since I first stepped into a memory clinic 30 years ago there has thankfully been a shift in the way society thinks about dementia,” said Dr Raymont. “There was previously a feeling that this was just another part of ageing, but now we’re seeing that people want to know more about their condition and they want a diagnosis as it helps them access the support they need.

“Both my parents lived with dementia so I know firsthand the devastation this disease causes, and how a timely and accurate diagnosis can benefit people and their families.”

Researchers believe tau protein could be a diagnostic indicator

The ADAPT study will be led by Prof Jonathan Schott and Dr Ashvini Keshavan from the University College London. This clinical trial will focus on measuring a protein in the blood known as p-tau217.

Levels of p-tau217 increase in the blood during the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and the researchers will test whether measuring p-tau217 increases the rate of diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease in people with early dementia.

Prof Schott said: “An early, accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is already important, allowing people to access appropriate care and medications.

“If, as we hope, new treatments that can slow down Alzheimer’s disease become available soon, then this will be vital.”

“The cusp of a new chapter”

Experts say this dual approach will help to boost the chances of a diagnostic blood test for dementia becoming available on the NHS.

Dr Sheona Scales, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “We’ve seen the enormous potential that blood tests are showing for improving the diagnostic process for people and their loved ones in other disease areas. Now we need to see this same step-change in dementia, which is the greatest health challenge facing the UK.’’

Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influence at Alzheimer’s Society said with these two new clinical trials and new dementia drugs, “it now feels like we’re on the cusp of a new chapter on how we treat dementia in this country.”

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