UW-Madison study investigating treatment to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Cynthia Carlsson talks to reporter at PBS MilwaukeeA research study at UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health is investigating a drug that could one day prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The AHEAD study is a global research study investigating lecanemab, a treatment aimed at delaying memory decline in people up to 20 years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear.

There are 100 AHEAD study sites in the world. Beginning in 2023, the study started at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health under the guidance of lead investigator Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS. A news story on Milwaukee PBS featured an interview with Carlsson and a research participant enrolled in the study. 

“The AHEAD study is really a study to see if we can prevent Alzheimer’s in people whose thinking ability is normal. They have no symptoms of memory loss, but they have a build-up of a protein called amyloid,” Carlsson said. Deposits of amyloid in the brain, called amyloid plaques, are a hallmark finding associated with Alzheimer’s disease, although not every person with amyloid plaques will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The interview featured a participant enrolled in the study, Marilyn Krause, who described how her husband Larry’s death from cancer prompted her desire to contribute to medical research.

“I know how much research has helped cancer and I thought, I really can’t do anything to fight what killed him, but maybe I can do something here,” Krause said.  

The study follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of lecanemab on July 6, 2023. Carlsson said the decision spurred excitement in the field about the AHEAD study. “It’s still not for sure. That’s why we have to do these studies, to see if they really do help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s,” she said. “But if it does show that, it would be really one of the first trials to show that there’s a way to actually prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s study” aired November 15, 2023, on Milwaukee PBS

Information about the AHEAD clinical trial at UW-Madison is available on the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center website. Information about the national AHEAD study is online on the AHEAD website