Houston Methodist’s Nantz National Alzheimer Center Investigational Therapy Focuses On Slowing Alzheimer’s Progression

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by Charles Moore |

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Almost two-thirds of more than five million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are women, and American women are twice as likely to die of Alzheimer’s disease as they are from breast cancer. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds, and in 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

houstonmethodistDespite this growing societal problem, exhascerbated by the huge baby boomer cohort now entering senior citizenship, patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease currently have no treatment options to slow brain cell deterioration. Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital’s Nantz National Alzheimer Center are studying an investigational drug that proposes to address that treatment void.

The drug, called T-817MA, focuses on preventing brain cell loss and slowing disease progression, whereas current treatment options including Donepezil (Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon), and Memantine (Namenda) merely treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The researchers want to know whether the investigational therapy using T-817MA can prevent brain cell loss, slowing disease progression in a more fundamental way.

Houston Methodist is the only study location in Texas to offer this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Approximately two-thirds of study participants will receive active study drug, but neither the patient nor study personnel will know whether a patients has received the active study drug or placebo until the patients’ participation in the study is complete. This is a Phase II clinical trial, an early study assessing the efficacy of a drug that has been tested on relatively few research subjects.

masdeuJC“Previous studies in mice have shown this investigational drug may work by protecting brain cells, which would result in improved memory and cognition,” says Joseph C. Masdeu, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of this study at Houston Methodist and director of the NNAC in a release. “As someone who sees the devastating impact this disease has on patients and their families, our goal is to find out if this drug is a viable option for our patients.”

People already diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s may be eligible for this study if they are women or men aged 55-85; they have taken donepezil (Aricept) treatment for at least six months; live in the community, not in a nursing home or assisted-living facility; and have a study partner who has regular contact with the patient (at least 10 hours per week) and can attend study visits.

Dr. Masdeu was the first physician-scientist to detect an early imaging feature of Alzheimer’s disease. He joined Houston Methodist Hospital as director of the Nantz National Alzheimer Center in December 2013, bringing his more than 30 years of experience as a clinician, researcher and leader in Alzheimer’s and neuroimaging, having led neurology departments in New York and his native Spain. In addition to directing Houston Methodist’s NNAC, Dr. Masdeu serves as director of neuroimaging and holds the Robert Graham Distinguished Chair in Neuroimaging.

Initially trained as a psychiatrist, Dr. Masdau completed a residence in Neurology in Chicago and a Neuropathology fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School. At the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York he led a project on Alzheimer’s disease that resulted in the identification of an early biomarker of the disease. His research on this disorder continued while he was Professor and Chairman of Neurology at the New York Medical College, a position which he held for 13 years, and also after he was recruited as Chairman of Neurosciences at the University of Navarra, Spain. Dr. Masdau came to Houston Methodist from the National Institutes of Health, where he served for six years as a senior staff physician and scientist in the Section of Integrative Neuroimaging of the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch.

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Author of 144 peer-reviewed papers, 62 book chapters, and seven books, including Localization in Clinical Neurology, a standard in the field now in its 6th edition, which received the 2012 best medical book award from the British Medical Association, Dr. Masdeu is chairman of the Neuroimaging Research Group of the World Federation of Neurology. He has been a director of the American Academy of Neurology and president of the American Society of Neuroimaging. Since 2007, he has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Neuroimaging.

This T-817MA study at Houston Methodist is sponsored by Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd., and is being conducted by the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), the largest Alzheimer’s disease therapeutic research consortium in the United States and supported by the National Institute on Aging. Approximately 50 clinical sites nationwide will offer the study to 450 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Houston Methodist expects to enroll approximately 20 patients. For study questions, call 281.222.9983.

houmethLocated in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, Houston Methodist hospital has consistently ranked as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” according to U.S. News & World Report and most recently, the No. 1 hospital in Texas.

Since its inception in 2011, the Nantz National Alzheimer Center (NNAC) has become a world-renowned referral center, treating thousands of patients each year. Its goal: slow memory loss progression and improve the quality of life for every patient.

The NNAC provides an environment of comprehensive, compassionate care for patients and their families. The center’s interdisciplinary team thoroughly evaluates each patient to ensure all medical conditions affecting memory loss, including hydrocephalus, vascular disease and sleep disorders, are diagnosed and treated. This approach has resulted in dramatic improvements in cognition for many patients.

Emmy Award-winning sports commentator, Jim Nantz, partnered with the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute to create the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. Jim and his wife, Courtney, work tirelessly to increase funding and generate awareness of the effects of concussions and TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) as well as later life dementia disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Jim has made a generous lifetime commitment to aggressively support research to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease as a lasting tribute to Jim’s father, Jim NantzJr., battled Alzheimer’s for 13 years.

For more information on Houston Methodist, call 713-790-3333 or visit:

Houston Methodist Hospital
The Nantz National Alzheimer Center
The Alzheimer’s Association

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Houston Methodist Hospital