Clinical trials offer hope for local Alzheimer’s patients

by: Melody Gonzales

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the US, more than 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to more than double by 2050.

Sara Salezberg was just 55 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.

“Something just happened to my brain like… I had no clue it was even. You know?”

The Portland mother of two thrived with her passion for graphic design art and sandblasting. But living with Alzheimer’s makes it incredibly difficult for her to do what she loves.

“I didn’t even realize it was happening. I had no clue it was even.”

“My sister would really be calling me and say, ‘moms doing some strange things the way she’s driving is changing and I’m finding pencils in the refrigerator,’” her son Jacob said.

Several years before her diagnoses, Sara faced another devastating situation: she lost her husband.

Jacob says he and his sister had to care for their mom at a young age. He’s since been documenting her journey with Alzheimer’s.

“Before we just felt extremely hopeless, but when a clinical trial came along, it was just that feeling like ok well, maybe we can fight this.”

Jacob says clinical trials have provided hope for his family and hopes that by sharing their story it can raise awareness.

“It was a huge burst of optimism and positivity for us.”

There’s now a new clinical trial that’s testing an investigational drug for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Michael Mega, the director for the Center for Cognitive Health in Portland, is enrolling patients in pharmaceutical company Athira Pharma’s phase 2 ACT-AD trial.

“The ACT-AD trial is with a drug that is aimed to restore and improve brain networks. The hope is that it repairs damaged brain networks,” Dr. Mega said.

Dr. Mega says qualified participants ages 55-85 will be randomly assigned to receive the study drug or placebo through a daily injection for six months.

“The ability to try and find a medication that actually slows or stops the disease from progressing would be a breakthrough.”

There have been no new treatments for Alzheimer’s approved in over 17 years, highlighting the need for new therapies.

“Many people take part in clinical trials for the greater good of science and to move the field forward, but it is also hope that people have,” Dr. Mega said.

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