Judy Gunkel is a strong supporter of TrialMatch™, the Alzheimer’s Association’s free, confidential interactive tool that provides comprehensive clinical trial information and an individualized trial matching service for people concerned with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Judy not only sees the value as an Alzheimer’s Association professional – she’s the Waukesha County Community Outreach Coordinator - but Judy also appreciates it from a family perspective. “My mom, Beverly, died from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Judy. “In addition, I watched most of my father’s siblings decline with Alzheimer’s disease – three aunts and one uncle.”
As an Alzheimer’s educator out in the field, Judy found that a lot of her constituents asked very pointed questions about clinical trials that she couldn’t answer. “I found it difficult and insufficient to convey information and answer questions without a firsthand experience,” said Judy. Then in May, 2010, she got her opportunity. While attending the Wisconsin Network Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, Judy learned about the Sharp Study. This clinical trial was seeking participants who had lost a parent to Alzheimer’s disease. Judy decided to fill out a profile on TrialMatch™ and was accepted as participant #27 in the study.
In July of 2010 Judy started travelling to Madison to participate in the study conducted at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center located at the VA Hospital. The study, which takes 18 months to complete, includes memory tests, MRI’s, a blood vessel ultrasound, a study drug and lumbar punctures. Judy entered the process with some initial reservations about the lumbar puncture. “This is a spinal tap in the lower back,” she explained. “My concern was largely based on misinformation. I had no side effects or discomfort from the two lumbar punctures I’ve experienced and I no longer fear this procedure.”
Judy now has an MRI of her brain stored at a Wisconsin research center, a baseline which will be invaluable if she develops Alzheimer’s symptoms in the future. “The condition of my brain in my late 50’s has now been documented,” said Judy. “If I develop future concerns, there is a comparison available. It also may make me a prime candidate for future studies as we progress to find a cure”.
Since research is the key to finding treatments and an end to the disease, it is critical that researchers can identify eligible participants. Research study time could be shortened dramatically if enough people were ready and available to participate. “TrialMatch can cut trial lead time by 50-75%,” said Judy. “And it’s easy to fill out a TrialMatch™ profile. There is no risk, no cost, and you are under no obligation to participate in any trial that you may be eligible for. And yet it is a great way for an individual or family to be informed of the types of research being conducted.”
Judy has motivated several people who joined the Sharp Study and urges everyone to utilize TrialMatch™ by completing a simple profile at: http://www.alz.org/research/clinical_trials/find_clinical_trials_trialmatch.asp