CLEVELAND (WJW) – When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, it can be overwhelming for the entire family. 

But here in Cleveland, University Hospitals researchers are looking for people to participate in a study to see if a drug recently proven to slow down the disease can prevent it too.

“It’s certainly not a cure, but it does offer hope and a way forward,” said Dr. Alan Lerner, a neurologist and Alzheimer’s disease researcher at UH.

He sees long-awaited hope in a drug called lecanemab, which a study just revealed can slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s in its early stages.

“There was about a 27% slowing of decline in the people who got the active drug,” Dr. Lerner said.

The drug does have some worrisome side effects. Fourteen percent of people in the study had some brain swelling or bleeding, but in most cases they were asymptomatic.

“We’ve gone many years without having any new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Lerner.

Researchers at University Hospitals are part of the AHEAD Study, designed to see if the same drug can be used before Alzheimer’s symptoms appear and prevent future memory loss and dementia. They are currently looking for people between 55 and 80 years old to participate.

“Many of those people have family history. We’re also making a very big push for under-represented groups, African-Americans and Hispanics, we want this study to look like America,” Dr. Lerner said.

Dr. Lerner says studies show that changes in the brain from Alzheimer’s disease start almost 20 years before any symptoms show up.

“In order to get into the study, we looked to see whether they already have accumulation of this amyloid protein in their brain. People are screened for that and so we think that they are at high risk for developing memory loss,” he said.

The AHEAD study is a four-year study, which has been underway for a year and a half, but Dr. Lerner says they still have another year of recruitment.

“We need as many as possible. We’ve studied about 30 people, but we’ve enrolled only about four because we’re trying to really make sure that people have the disease under consideration,” he said.

Dr. Lerner says if the study is successful, it could mean stopping memory loss from Alzheimer’s before it even begins.

“We think that this is a really important study because it helps move the needle back in terms of prevention,” said Lerner.

The Alzheimer’s Association says it is encouraged by the recent study results and calls for the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate approval of lecanemab.

University Hospitals is one of more than 100 study locations worldwide.

If you would like to participate in the study, visit AHEADStudy.org or neuroresearch@uhhospitals.org. You can also call 216-464-6215.