Critical medical research put on hold amid pandemic

BOSTON — The pandemic has put a pause on critical medical research. At Brigham and Women's Hospital, some health care workers involved with a clinical trial for Alzheimer's were called to help care for coronavirus patients.

For Alice Bailey, a life-changing discovery led her to an Alzheimer's clinical trial.

“My good news was that I could be a part of the study and the bad news was I do have amyloid in my brain,” said Alice Bailey, Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial Participant.

Alice Bailey is asymptomatic but was diagnosed with a precursor for the disease. For the past four years, she and her husband have been taking part in research at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"You step into a research study where you're a rock star, they want everything to go well for you and it's a wonderful psychological and energetic boost," said Bailey.

At Brigham and Women’s, there are close to 200 people taking part in the trial. Now, it’s all on hold during the pandemic.

"It's a complicated issue. For many of the trials, we're one site amongst many sites globally and each of the sites is carrying out the protocol of the study with particular procedures and a particular order and that gets really disrupted," explained Dr. Seth Gale, neurologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Researchers say more than 15,000 people across the country are taking part in some kind of clinical trial. Participants, like Alice, are staying safe by staying home but any amount of time lost is a setback for medical research.

“There are a number of very promising therapies in the pipeline and COVID-19 creates a great challenge to keeping them on schedule, maybe delaying them for years if we’re not careful, said John Dwyer, President of Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Doctors and nurses at Brigham and Women's working on Alzheimer's research were needed on the front lines to help care for coronavirus patients.

"For example, one of the research nurses had prior experience working in an ICU and she was the perfect person to be part of the rotating shift of health care providers," said Dr. Gale.

Dr. Gale hopes the trials resume by mid-July. He says the research is important to see whether a drug is effective or not but it's also the personal connection.

"Participants are just as heavily invested as we as investigators are. They commit years of time and energy," said Dr. Gale.

"What if all we've done for years I've been in it is all lost now because too much time has passed," questioned Bailey.

You can find more information on Alzheimer’s research and support here:

Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment

Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

Virtual clinical trial

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