TRDA Commemorates World Alzheimer Day 2023
These are exciting times to be in dementia research. After twenty years with virtually no news, this past year we have seen two new drugs approved for Alzheimer disease, by the FDA in the USA. While these drugs have some drawbacks and are still making their way through the Canadian drug approval system, there is much reason for hope.
At the same time, dementia incidence rates are increasing significantly. The number of people living with dementia in Canada is expected to be well above 1.5 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s Landmark study. This is an epidemic by any measure; and yet our health and social care systems are not adequately prepared for all this means for our society.
Our vision as clinicians and researchers in this field is to be able to provide proactive, personalized treatment to patients. This will require reliable, easy-to-implement tests for relevant biomarkers of the diseases that cause dementia. What is also essential is a much higher degree of coordination in our health and social care systems, in areas such as prevention, diagnosis, documentation, counseling, and treatment. We are not there yet.
At TDRA we are undertaking some of this work, in Canada’s largest city. TDRA represents the voice and the dementia research interests of the University of Toronto and our six affiliated academic hospitals. Our strategic focus areas lie in prevention, standardization of care, and improving efficiency of research infrastructure, for dementia.
On the diagnosis side, TDRA concentrates on building capacity in translational research, and on supporting the development of promising ideas through small, targeted grants. These grants are largely focused on exploring the link between dementia and depression. As one example we have supported studies on various neuromodulation modalities, for brain stimulation, and will be hosting a workshop in November to further explore this area.
Standardization and coordination of care are becoming increasing areas of attention and interest at the TDRA. We believe that working together we can make a profound impact on care and the prognosis for people living with dementia. To increase the use of the validated TDRA-developed cognition MRI protocol, we developed and facilitated two University of Toronto-accredited courses this past year. The first course introduced the protocol to primary care physicians and the second to radiologists. These efforts will continue.
TDRA is focused on building supportive infrastructure that is making collaboration more efficient. Over the summer, our legal research group led to an accelerated completion of a multi-site agreement in just over two months - a significantly expedited timeline. We are also facilitating access to research for patients, via our partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. To date the TDN website has been successful in matching dozens of people to research that is making an impact.
At TDRA we are guided in everything we do by an incredible group of volunteers, who participate in our Lived Experience Advisory Council (LEAP). One of the many areas this group advised us on is increasing our support for groups that have been traditionally under-represented in research. To that end, we are proud to have recently granted two inaugural Graduate Dementia Research Scholarships for Black Students. We look forward to all this initiative will bring to the field.
I want to thank all of you for everything you do every day to make our future as a society healthier and full of hope. Together we can proactively prepare for the dementia epidemic and help provide our aging population the quality of life they deserve.
Dr. K. Tarek Rajji, MD, FRCPC
Executive Director, Toronto Dementia Research Alliance