Promising Alzheimer’s study offers hope

The first Canadian patient is now participating in a clinical trial at Parkwood Institute that’s taking a new approach to trying to stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) before symptoms emerge.  

"The A4 (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s) study offers hope to AD patients,” explains Dr. Michael Borrie, a geriatrician at Parkwood Institute and scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute who is leading the Cognitive Clinical Trials Group. “It is the first trial designed to prevent memory loss by identifying individuals who have the earliest changes of AD in their brain but who don’t yet show symptoms.”

A4 study group

Danny Deprest, second from left, the first Canadian patient to participate in the A4 study, with Dr. Borrie, A4 study coordinator Patricia Sargeant, Cognitive Clinical Trials Group Team leader Sarah Best, and Research Coordinator Elsa Mann.

With AD, one of the first changes to take place is the buildup of the protein amyloid in the brain. This can start to occur 10 to 20 years before significant memory loss emerges. The A4 trial is testing a treatment designed to help the brain clear amyloid and put a halt to the side effects associated with AD. 

“We hope that by treating the amyloid early, we can change the outcome,” say Dr. Borrie. “But we need research participants to help us.” The study is taking place in 60 sites across Canada, the United States and Australia. An estimated 10,000 participants will need to be screened to find 1,000 who fit the study requirements.

To join the A4 study, participants must be between the ages of 65 and 85, have normal thinking and memory abilities and no symptoms of AD, yet have a strong family history of the disease.  Those interested in seeing if they’re eligible first undergo memory testing and a PET scan to confirm amyloid is present in their brain, then begin a three-year investigational treatment along with other procedures and monitoring.

Danny DePrest fit the requirements. “I was becoming frustrated with my forgetfulness, so I jumped at the chance to join the study and find out if AD was at the route of my problems,” says the 66-year-old realtor. Tests showed Danny’s memory was within the normal range, but when a PET scan revealed amyloid buildup in his brain, he became the first Canadian to match the study requirements. 

The A4 study is not for everyone; those diagnosed with AD or mild cognitive impairment, receiving treatment for AD or taking AD-related medications, diagnosed with a serious or unstable illness, or residing in a hospital or nursing home are not eligible to participate. 

At St. Joseph’s the Cognitive Clinical Trials Group are conducting the A4 research under the umbrella of the Centre for Cognitive Vitality and Brain Health. Here, clinicians and researchers are working together to create innovative approaches to brain health research, education and care for patients with dementia, stroke, neurological injury, traumatic brain injury and mental illness.

For more information on the study, visit:

“It is the first trial designed to prevent memory loss by identifying individuals who have the earliest changes of Alzheimer’s in their brain but who don’t yet show symptoms.”