Southwest Florida is one of 200 sites across the United States testing a treatment for Alzheimer's which takes a different approach to how the degenerative disease is dealt with in a clinical setting.
The lead investigator for the ICARA study, Dr. Frederick Schaerf from the Neuropsychiatric Research Center of Southwest Florida, said Alzheimer's - a degenerative disorder where brain cells are permanently lost - is a prevalent medical and social issue in the region.
One in every 100 people age 65 and older are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and those statistics jump to 1 in every 3 people when patients reach the age of 85, explained Schaerf.
"The only options for patients are for medications that only treat symptoms," he said. "It might treat memory and behavior, but nothing really has looked at the disease itself and whether the progression of the disease can be effected."
The ICARA study, also known as the "Bapi" study, will test the effectiveness of Bapineuzumab, an investigational drug meant to slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
"It is also very different in the sense that it infuses patients or subjects with a compound with intravenous infusions, six infusions rather than taking pills," said Schaerf.
In the study, patients receive a liquid compound through an IV and includes the antibodies needed to combat Amyloid proteins responsible for the degeneration of the brain.
When a patient receives an immunization, for example, he or she is injected with a virus and the body protects itself by producing new antibodies.
Similar intravenous trials from the past did not include antibodies in the compound, said Schaerf, which was problematic for senior citizens who have a difficult time producing their own antibodies because of age.
"It is scientifically interesting and gives citizens of Southwest Florida a real chance to participate in this type of research," said Schaerf.
Southwest Florida has housed 70 investigational studies for pharmaceutical companies testing out new drugs before seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The ICARA study is open to subjects diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer's between the age of 50 and 89.
Receiving the compound takes approximately one hour, said Schaerf, and patients also receive MRI scans and other cognitive tests to measure the effectiveness of the treatment.
"There are obviously no charge to subjects," he said. "It has started and we are actively recruiting."
Fourteen subjects have already been screened to begin the study, but Schaerf stressed that there is a short time frame to register because it has competitive enrollment.
"That's why we are very open to have individuals sooner rather than later," he said.
For more information on the study, visit: www.icarastudy.com or call 888-770-6366.