Affording Underserved Communities Clinical Trial Access to Solve the Alzheimer’s Crisis

The effects of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) on families across the U.S. are devastating. An estimated 6.2 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with AD. And, barring the development of novel therapies and cures, an estimated 12.7 million Americans aged 65 and older will be living with the disease by 2050.

Currently, nearly 400,000 Texans live with AD — with a 23 percent increase expected by 2025. These statistics are particularly impacting Black and Latino communities: Texas is home to 23 of the 50 counties in the U.S. with the highest AD prevalence among Latino and Black communities, according to the 2020 county-level health equity report from UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Nationally, Black Americans are up to three times more likely, and Latino Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop AD in their lifetimes than white Americans. By 2040, Black and Latino Americans will account for more than half the people living with AD. Yet, these populations traditionally account for only around five percent of the volunteers in Alzheimer’s-related research.

The only way forward is to enroll a diverse group of patients in research studies so new discoveries are relevant to everyone in our community.

And right here, in Dallas, we are making progress.

At Kerwin Medical Center, we are enrolling volunteers in the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation’s (GAP) Bio-Hermes Study, which sets out to determine which AD biomarker test (or combination thereof) best detects early signs or confirmation of AD. These biomarker tests include blood tests, retinal scans, speech analysis, gait tests, and more.

Using these results, providers in community settings will be able to screen for signs of Alzheimer’s disease. From these screenings, they will be able to make referrals to brain specialists and even diagnose the disease directly — something currently impossible without expensive or invasive tests.

People over age 60 with concerns about their memory, a family history of Alzheimer’s, or a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s are especially invited to learn more.

Bio-Hermes is one of the first Alzheimer’s studies to prioritize diversity in recruitment. We’ve committed to ensuring at least 20 percent of our study participants are Black or Latino to ensure future Alzheimer’s assessment tools are sensitive and specific to everyone.

Bio-Hermes study participants will receive, at no cost, a study-related PET scan. The scan, a costly brain imaging test for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis which is often not covered by insurance, will provide participants with information about their brain health. This test is especially valuable for people in Black and Latino communities in Dallas who are less likely to receive timely Alzheimer’s diagnoses than those in white communities.

Volunteers for the Bio-Hermes study must be between 60 and 85 years old and have someone who can participate with them as a study partner. The study includes two visits with Kerwin Medical Center staff and one visit to a local imaging site for three months, with the potential for a follow-up phone call if needed. Free transportation and/or free parking is available to all study participants, and a stipend for study participation.

When we look at Bio-Hermes in the context of broader conversations about health and racial equity, we know we are on the right track. However, our efforts will fall short if people from underserved communities don’t join us. The only way to find best-in-class cures and improve the quality of care available to underserved communities is for people in those communities to get involved in medical research.

Those interested in learning more about the Bio-Hermes study and volunteering for clinical studies should email enroll@kerwinmedical.com or call (972) 433-9100.

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