Date Published: 14 September 2005

Neurodegenerative disease targeted in UK government's drive for new medical treatments

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

A team from University College London and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have been chosen to lead a £20 million initiative to speed up the development of new medical treatments for dementia and neurodegenerative disease the Department of Health announced today.

The team will co-ordinate a network of NHS staff and resources across the country to expand the number and range of clinical trials of medical treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Huntingdon's Disease and Alzheimer's.

This is the latest development in the Government's drive to help the advancement of new medical treatments in six specific disease areas ? stroke, diabetes, medicines for children, mental health, cancer, and dementias and neurodegenerative diseases. Each network co-ordinates NHS resources and, working in partnership with clinical researchers, primary care trusts, the pharmaceutical industry and the voluntary sector, enables more patients to take part in clinical trials.

Health Minister Jane Kennedy said:

" More NHS patients will get the benefits of leading-edge medicines and treatments by increasing the number of NHS patients participating in clinical trials. Better co-ordination of clinical trials is the key to speeding up the development of medical treatments from the laboratory to the patient bedside. Through the research networks the NHS provides the patients, the staff and the facilities required for clinical trials to take place.
_ The Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network means we can drive forward research in an area that currently does not receive the support it deserves

Professor Martin Rossor, Director of the Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network Coordinating Centre says:

" The Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network will forge partnerships between specialists in psychiatry and neurology together with teams in primary care who treat this large group of patients with complex and often long term diseases. The network will offer unprecedented opportunities to bring the latest clinical treatments and trials to people in the UK. The new scheme will operate in close partnership with patient organisations to ensure that we are addressing the research questions that are of most importance to patients."

Dr Susanne Sorensen, Head of Research at the Alzheimer's Society said:

"The Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network marks a positive step forward for dementia care, as all too often clinical trials in this area fail to get the support they deserve. This initiative will make clinical research for dementia easier and will hopefully lead to more treatments for the thousands of people in the UK who have this distressing condition. The Society is looking forward to the exciting new opportunities the Network will create and hopes to be closely involved with its future work."

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research at the Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS) said:

" We welcome the announcement of the Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network. This network will have a huge impact on our ability to carry out multi-centre clinical research within the UK.
_ Parkinson's disease is a devastating illness that affects all aspects of life for those with the condition and current treatments can cause severe side effects.
_ We hope that the increase of clinical trials for new treatments will progress the PDS' ultimate goal of allowing people with Parkinson's to lead a life free of symptoms

The Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network completes the current £100 million programme of networks announced by the Department of Health in November 2004 under the banner of the UK Clinical Research Network (UKCRN). This programme follows on from the success of the National Cancer Research Network, the first research network established by the Department of Health in 2001.

To date, the success of the National Cancer Research Network includes:

  • Doubling the total number of cancer patients entering clinical trials in the UK since its inception ? in the last six months 8,500 patients (7.5% of all cancer patients) entered clinical trials. Increasing the percentage of cancer patients participating in trials in England to twice the level of the USA.
  • The other research networks are putting in place systems to build on the lessons learned by the cancer network. For example, the Diabetes Research Network is creating a national database of people with diabetes interested in taking part in clinical trials. Most diabetes care is carried out by GPs in primary care setting so existing databases tend to be fragmented around the country.

Professor Peter Selby Director of the UK Clinical Research Network says:

" The development of the clinical research networks are very exciting and will undoubtedly enable us to build on recent scientific advances, rapidly leading to benefits for patients. Each of the networks will be different but the National Cancer Research Network has already demonstrated what can be achieved by bringing the clinical community together to deliver high quality trials. Results become available much sooner and can be translated more quickly into improving patient care."

Source(s): The UK Department of Health

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