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Dementia research lagging behind cancer

Only 29 active trials have progressed past the first phase of testing

A critically low number of clinical trials are being carried out into dementia treatments around the world, experts have warned.

There are currently just 142 active clinical trials focusing on Alzheimer’s disease, the main cause of dementia, compared with 1,000 for cancer.

Of those, just 29 have progressed past the first phase of testing – 40 times fewer than cancer trials at the same stage, according to the University of Exeter.

Exeter’s Professor Clive Ballard said with no new licensed treatments in the last 20 years, addressing the shortfall is an urgent priority.

“Our research outlines the new approach needed to enable us to do better by the 40 million people worldwide who have dementia, and for an economy which is projected to spend a trillion dollars on treating this disease by the end of 2018,” he added.

Scientists are increasingly looking at ways to prevent dementia and treat it in the early stages, which is difficult because more volunteers are needed for studies, the research found. 

Hannah Churchill, research communications officer at the Alzheimer’s Society, told MailOnline that the effects of cancer research are clearly proven, as more people are now living than dying whereas in the 1970s a diagnosis was a death sentence.

“We’d love to see the same thing in dementia. We have an ageing population and healthcare is at breaking point so dementia will become more of a problem in future – it’s definitely a priority,” she said.