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New Alzheimer’s disease drug trial opens more sites across the South West

Press release issued: 18 January 2016

People with Alzheimer’s disease are helping with a ground-breaking government-funded trial but with new sites recently opened in the South West more people are being asked to take part in the study led by academics from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Queen’s University Belfast and University College London, and hosted by North Bristol NHS Trust.

The research study, known as RADAR (Reducing pathology in Alzheimer’s Disease through Angiotensin taRgeting) is investigating if a drug normally used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) has additional properties that could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in people with and without hypertension.

RADAR is a multi-centre clinical trial that will investigate if losartan, a blood pressure drug that first became available in 1995, can complement current treatments for AD. The researchers believe losartan can slow down the progression of AD by improving brain blood flow and altering chemical pathways that cause brain cell damage, brain shrinkage and memory problems in AD.

As part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, funding of nearly £2 million was awarded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, an MRC and NIHR partnership. 

RADAR is hoping to recruit approximately 230 participants, together with a similar number of carers, from across the UK including sites in the South West (SW) based in Bristol, Cheltenham, Exeter and Torbay, which will be supported by the clinical research networks (CRN) CRN: West of England and CRN: SW Peninsula. 

The RADAR study is a double-blinded placebo-controlled randomised trial, meaning that some participants will be randomly assigned to receive either the study drug or a placebo but nobody (including doctors and nurses involved) will know until the study is analysed as a whole who received which. This is one of the most powerful study designs available.

People with Alzheimer’s disease who have high or normal blood pressure can take part if they meet certain eligibility criteria and RADAR will use brain imaging to measure whether losartan reduces the rate of brain shrinkage that is known to occur in AD.  It will also be using what are standard questionnaires on memory performance and quality of life – important indicators of whether the drug might be helpful.

Professor Pat Kehoe, Gestetner Professor of Translational Dementia Research in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol, who is leading the trial, said: “It is our delight to be able to extend the study to provide opportunities for patients and their carers in the South West to be able to take part in this UK-based trial, whose participation will be instrumental in helping to test if losartan will be a future treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Dr Stephen Pearson, Consultant in Dementia Research, who is supporting the two Devon sites at Torbay and Exeter that will be complementing the Bristol and Cheltenham sites, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to offer people with Alzheimer’s disease based locally this opportunity to take part in this important study. Regretfully there are only a limited number of places we can offer to potential participants so we hope people will be getting in touch to find out more.”

If you, or you know of someone, who might be interested in participating in the study, please contact your nearest SW centre: Bristol, tel: 0117 414 8238; Cheltenham, tel: 01452 894048; Exeter and Torbay, tel: 01803 656619.

Members of the public interested in other research opportunities in relation to Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can register with the new Join Dementia Research initiative, hosted by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

The Join Dementia Research service allows anyone with and without dementia to sign up using basic demographic and health information and be matched to dementia research studies in their area. Research teams can then approach potential volunteers about their particular study and the volunteer can decide whether to take part on a case-by-case basis.

Further information

The principal investigators for each of the four sites are:

Bristol: Dr Elizabeth Coulthard, North Bristol NHS Trust, BRAIN Centre, Southmead Hospital, email:

Cheltenham: Dr Tarun Kuruvilla, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Charlton Lane Centre, Cheltenham, email:

Exeter: Dr Joseph Butchart, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in partnership with Devon Partnership NHS Trust, email:

Torbay: Dr Stephen Pearson, South Devon Healthcare Torbay hospital in partnership with Devon Partnership NHS Trust, email:

Further information on the Clinical Research Networks supporting this study can be found at:

About the National Institute for Health Research Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme

1. The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme supports later-phase “science-driven” clinical trials and evaluative studies, which seek to determine whether a health intervention (e.g. a drug, diagnostic technique or device) works and in some cases how or why it works.  The EME Programme is funded by the MRC and NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world.

3. The Medical Research Council (MRC) is at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Thirty-one MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed. Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms.

About North Bristol NHS Trust
North Bristol NHS Trust provides hospital and community healthcare to the residents of Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset and we are also a specialist regional centre for major trauma, neurosciences, plastics and burns, orthopaedics and renal services.

About Join Dementia Research
Join Dementia Research is funded by the Department of Health and delivered in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research, Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer Scotland and the Alzheimer’s Society.

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