Alzheimer's Clinical Trials

  • By Laura Helft
  • Posted 04.07.16
  • NOVA

How are clinical trials designed and what motivates patients and family members to consider participating in them?


Running Time: 04:31


Arthur Canter: “Well, my Mom has Alzheimer’s. It's always very scary to actually realize the individuals who have the disease are not aware of what is happening to them.”

Arthur Canter: “So the question is, do I just sit back and do nothing… or do I at least try to participate?”

Research Assistant: “Alright Arthur, you can come with me. We’re going to go in and see Jane.”

Arthur Canter: Because from my end, it's not only participating in this important research, but you're connected to probably the world's researchers who are looking at this disease.”

Rudy Tanzi: “So, the drug company will come up with the drug, they’ll write up the trial, show the drug is safe, get approval from the FDA to do the trials.”

“In in a trial, you, you specify different outcomes you want to look at, like it could be safety or are you improving cognition? You’re looking for statistical significance… that there was a difference with the drug.”

Nurse (SOT): “Did I give you your schedule for the next two years, three years?”

Arthur Canter (SOT): “Yes.”

Arthur Canter (SOT): “This is a double blind study, so therefore you don't know whether you're getting the med or a placebo.”

Research Nurse Coordinator (SOT): “Have a seat right here.”

Donna Estrella (SOT): “Okay.”

Research Nurse Coordinator (SOT): “Alright, I’m just gonna…”

Donna Estrella: “My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but they didn’t have anything then, at all. You know, there was no medicine, there was nothin’.”

Tony Estrella: “My Grandfather had Alzheimer’s, so that’s really where I learned what Alzheimer’s was.”

Tony Estrella:“You know, when the clinical trial was first proposed, I was immediately excited because it's you know, you feel like in that situation that you, you, you're looking for a lifeline of some kind, because it's, it's unknown territory. And so when it was proposed that she would be a good candidate for this, I think she might have been a little trepidatious about it, but from my point of view, you know, you kind of, you have to.”

“She realized this as well. That, you know, when you're participating in something like this you, you know, beyond what it's going to do for you, that, that it's important you know, and you say to yourself, ‘Well, if I'm doing something that I feel I'm, I'm contributing to, I'm doing something positive,’ I think that has a great effect, you know, psychologically on getting through it.”

Donna Estrella:“I’m hoping that they have a breakthrough. Even if it doesn’t happen in my time, you know, let them find something for the future people, you know, that come down with it.”

Ken Kosik: “There are literally hundreds of billions of dollars being spent just to care for patients with Alzheimer's disease.”

Arthur Canter: “So, I didn’t have a heart attack?”

Research Assistant (SOT): [Laughs] “You are doin’ just fine.”

Ken Kosik: “And the amount of money that is being spent on clinical trials is a relatively small portion.”

Arthur Canter: “I should have pumped some weights, I’d be more vascular today.”

Nurse (SOT): “Oh, I think you’re just fine. I’m liking what I see.”

Ken Kosik: “We've proposed that even though it's a risky investment, if we take multiple shots on goal, running lots of trials, will get us faster to our goal.”

Scott McGinnis (to Art): “So, here we go. One… two… three…”

Arthur Canter: “Obviously for me, yes, it would be wonderful if I got the medication and, yes, it did have an impact. So, to me, that would be the best case situation and that would be wonderful. However, I think participating in the research and being tied into the research community, to me, is very important.”

Ken Kosik: “So, each trial stands on the shoulders of the previous one. Allowing insights to proceed as everything in science does: incrementally.”


Original Footage from Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped?
Written, Produced & Directed by
Sarah Holt
Laura Helft
William A. Anderson
Line Producer
Heather Forbes
Associate Producer
Laura Schebler Rammelsberg
Post Production Supervisor
Arjun Rao
Assistant Editors
Penny Hollis
Michael Quartulli
Color Correct and Audio Mix
Henninger Media Services
Editorial Advisors
Laura Bonetta
Dennis Liu
Music by
New West Studios, Inc.
© 2016 Tangled Bank Studios, LLC
All rights reserved


(main image: TK)
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2016

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