As masses of baby boomers collectively step through the prime risk window for dementia, calls for increased research funding for Alzheimer’s and related diseases have reached a fever pitch. According to a March 14 report from Alzheimer’s Research United Kingdom (ARUK), the advocacy has begun to pay off with more white coats in laboratories.
Between 2008 and 2016, the number of dementia researchers in the United Kingdom nearly doubled, jumping from 3,209 to 6,141. The number of dementia-related papers published by U.K. scientists rose in kind, from 1,614 to 3,169. More researchers still study cancer in the United Kingdom than dementia, but the gap is closing: Cancer researchers now outnumber dementia researchers by four to one, down from six to one six years ago. Although deaths from all forms of cancer in the United Kingdom are approximately double those caused by dementia, cancer mortality is decreasing while dementia mortality is on the rise. More statistics about dementia and research aimed to tackle it can be found on ARUK’s newly launched Dementia Statistics Hub.
Globally, dementia publications have jumped by about 40 percent over seven years, from 7,165 listed on PubMed in 2008 to 11,752 in 2015. According to a French study of global research statistics, the number of Alzheimer’s research papers published in the United States between 2009 and 2013 was 28 percent higher than the number published between 2004 and 2008. This is compared to a 56 percent increase in France, 38 percent in the United Kingdom, 43 percent in the Netherlands, and a whopping 207 percent in China between the same time periods (see Haeffner-Cavaillon et al., 2015).
In the United States, recent back-to-back boosts in Alzheimer’s research funding infused the scientific community with increased support (see Dec 2015 news and Jun 2016 news). However, according to Vicky Cahan at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Institutes of Health does not track numbers of dementia researchers or publications in the United States. Any positive trends were just cast into doubt by the president’s recent budget proposal, which would dock NIH funding by 20 percent (see Mar 2017 news).
For its part, the ARUK report stressed that gains in dementia research have not yet led to approved treatments to slow or halt the disease, despite the growing number of dementia cases. “Already 850,000 people are living with dementia in the U.K., and that number will rise to over one million by 2025 unless new treatments and preventions can be found,” said Hilary Evans, ARUK’s chief executive.—Jessica Shugart
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- Haeffner-Cavaillon N, Devos P, Ledoux S, Ménard J. The Third French Alzheimer Plan: analysis of the influence of a national public health initiative on scientific research productivity and impact. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2015 Sep 26;7(1):60. PubMed.
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