The herbal medicine that is a 'possible cure' for dementia
LISMORE will be home to one of Australia's largest clinical trials on the effectiveness of novel Chinese herbal extract Sailuotong (SLT) for vascular dementia.
And locals over 40 affected by the disease seeing a geriatrician are encouraged to participate.
Conducted by NICM Health Research Institute (NICM), the Phase III clinical trial has added three new hospital sites including Lismore, coinciding with positive results from an independent clinical trial of SLT published in the recent journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.
The Chinese study included 325 participants and suggests SLT as an effective treatment for vascular dementia, improving cognition and daily functioning in Chinese patients with mild-to-moderate vascular dementia.
The results reported improved functioning in multiple domains, such as memory, orientation, language and executive function after 26 weeks of SLT treatment.
These promising results are highly significant, as current available treatment options for vascular dementia are very limited.
SCU to coordinate Northern Rivers trial
Southern Cross University is coordinating the Lismore trial which will be conducted at the University and St Vincent's Hospital.
Professor Stephen Myers, Principal Investigator based at Southern Cross University's NatMed-Research Unit, said if the present Australian clinical trial is successful, SLT will be an effective frontline treatment for thousands of people across the world with vascular dementia.
"This is a great project and Southern Cross University is very excited to be participating," Prof Myers said.
"It is tackling one of the significant problems in modern healthcare using herbal medicines that has been standardised and quality assured to pharmaceutical specifications."
He said it was a "very interesting medicine".
"There were 325 participants in China who had vascular dementia and they've shown that the study preparation SLT has real benefit in individuals.
"They did a human trial across six months and demonstrated the preparation increased brain activity in a number of domains such as memory, patient language and executive function.
"We don't know if the treatment at this stage is a permanent cure.
"We're giving the medication in the trial for one year then stopping the medication and coming back to test people three months after the medication has ended to determine whether the effects are still lasting.
"The idea is to determine whether you need to take it constantly or whether once you've taken it for a long period of time it's had a beneficial effect which continues."
Without a medical breakthrough, the number of Australians living with dementia is expected to double over the next two decades.
Prof Myers there's currently 250 people a day being diagnosed with dementia as the broad term.
"Alzimers is the largest category and vascular dementia is the second largest category - it makes up 25-30 per cent of people with dementia in Australia," he said.
"This is about 125,0000 people of 425,000, around 85 people diagnosed per day.
"Currently there is no really good effective treatment so not only will this be the demonstration of a herbal medicine that's effective it may be the only medicine that's effective."
What is vascular dementia?
Dementia Australia says vascular dementia is a general term describing problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory and other thinking skills that are significant enough to interfere with daily social or occupational functioning, and are caused by brain damage that has resulted from impaired blood flow in the brain.
"One of the things the herbs have been demonstrated to do is to increase the metabolic activity on the other side of a blockage," Prof Myers said.
"Years ago it's a normal process of ageing, now we realise it's a disease state.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't contain our cognitive capacity up until the day we die."
"It's extremely exciting to be the largest trial sought in a very significant health care condition that really requires solutions to be part of a team that's helping trial what looks like might be a viable solution."
He said people can participate through their specialist, as recruiting will be through local geriatrics.
Meeting kicks off trial
Today in Sydney, Dr Jianping Jia, Professor and Dean of Neurology at Beijing Xuan Wu Hospital and Capital Medical University and the Chief Investigator of the recent Chinese study, will present the results to NICM's Australian research team consisting of leading dementia researchers, neurologists, geriatrician's and aged care professionals.
Chief Investigator of the Australian Phase III trial, Professor Dennis Chang, from NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, said: "The meeting is an opportunity to hear from Professor Jia, one of China's leading neurologists and researchers in dementia".
"We will also discuss practical approaches to help study sites and researchers recruit and retain volunteers for our 52-week study. We aim to recruit at least 226 participants by mid next year to ensure robust scientific data and conclusions."
If you are interested in participating in the clinical trial:
- At Lismore, phone Shelley Robinson, Vascular Dementia Clinical Trial coordinator at Southern Cross University on 0419 098 018 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- at other sites, phone the hotline 02 4620 3578 or email email@example.com
- This clinical trial is a double-blinded study, meaning that participants and their study doctors will not know which treatment is being received. Participants will be randomly assigned to receiving the active study drug or placebo, and will be instructed to take it for a 52-week treatment period.
Over a 65-week period, participants will:
- Have one scheduled telephone call
- Attend eight scheduled clinic visits, where participants will be assessed by the research team, have blood tests and asked to complete several questionnaires.
Study participant criteria:
- Be over 40 years of age.
- Be diagnosed with mild-to-moderate vascular dementia or Alzheimer's disease with cerebrovascular disease.
- Not taken similar herbal ingredients that can enhance neurocognition.
- Ability to read and understand English.