On October 4, 2016, PARF proudly sponsored “Towards a Cure”, a public forum on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia research alomg with the Alzheimer Society of BC, Brain Canada, Genome BC, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR).

The forum was held in Vancouver, Canada and brought together more than 160 participants, including those touched by the condition, and researchers trying to tackle the disease, which affects an estimated 70,000 British Columbians.

This panel was an output of the British Columbia Alzheimer’s Research Award Program — a partnership between Brain Canada, Genome BC, MSFHR and PARF — to provide $7.5 million in funding to support the research of five BC teams to find solutions to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. One of the commitments of this award is to raise awareness of the research and bridge the knowledge translation gap by fostering dialogue and creating connections between the researchers and the public.

The evening started with an expert panel, moderated by MSFHR President & CEO Dr. Diane Finegood, and included Dr. Cheryl Wellington, professor, UBC; Dr. David Vocadlo (2006 MSFHR Scholar), professor, SFU; Maria Howard, CEO, Alzheimer Society of BC; and Jim Mann, Alzheimer’s advocate and volunteer. The panel addressed the current state of dementia research including the crucial role played by individuals and families living with the disease.

The event also featured interactive round table discussions facilitated by more than 20 members of the Alzheimer’s and dementia research community including recipients of the BC Alzheimer’s Research Award. They were joined by a selection of researchers from across Canada participating in the CANAD and Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging symposia on Alzheimer’s disease research held October 4-7 in Vancouver.

Key points raised during the forum ranged from identifying risk factors, earlier detection and understanding the symptoms, advancements in technology used to diagnose the disease, importance of lifestyle in preventing the onset, current and emerging drug treatments, and balancing the role of research when it comes to prevention, treatment and finding a cure. Research that is focused on patients and families was underscored as a critical element, as was getting research into the hands of families and health care providers.

Societal issues such as breaking down stereotypes and stigma, addressing myths and patient care were also discussed.

Those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers shared heartfelt stories on dealing with a multitude of challenges and the need for greater understanding and support in their journey. After learning about the work of researchers they expressed hope and that they felt “less alone”.

Hearing from individuals and families also left an impression on the researchers participating in the forum. Many reported that the opportunity to “get out of the lab” and have direct interaction with those affected by the disease will serve to motivate them in their work to find a cure. “I realize my research is about more than just data,” said one researcher. “It’s also about helping those affected and the impact of my research on finding a cure.”

While a cure is yet to be found, BC-led research is contributing to new breakthroughs in detection and treatment that have the potential to improve lives and change the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

Many thanks go out to all the speakers and attendees who contributed their perspectives on, and experiences of Alzheimer’s to help make this such a successful event.

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