EU and industry-funded researchers are testing wearable devices, Internet of Things technologies and smartphone apps to transform the lives of people with Alzheimer's disease.
Approximately 50 million people worldwide live with dementia, a figure the World Health Organization predicts will triple to 152 million by 2050. By 2030, the global cost of dementia could reach more than USD 2 trillion.
To improve the lives of those patients and reduce the associated costs, an EU- and industry-funded project is working on using detailed information about the health of each patient to transition from a ‘diagnose and treat’ to a ‘predict and pre-empt’ model of care.
The RADAR-AD project, a public-private joint venture under the EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), is combining mobile and smart home devices with data analytics technologies to provide enhanced care and remote health monitoring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at all stages of disease progression.
‘RADAR-AD gives patients the opportunity to be better informed about their own health status and to use this information to self-manage the disease. This will ultimately help personalise care for each patient and allow them to live independently for longer,’ says project coordinator Dag Årsland at King's College London. ‘In parallel, we anticipate that the platform will improve our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease subtypes and progression, supporting the development of new and more effective treatments.’
A whole picture of health
The RADAR-AD team plans to deploy a number of reliable and readily available digital technologies to gather data on a patient’s cognitive health and their functional ability to perform routine daily tasks. This should generate a more complete picture of a patient’s physical and mental wellbeing than current approaches, which rely on intermittent clinical assessments by doctors and potentially subjective evaluations by carers.
Data from wearable devices, smartphone applications, home-based sensors and digital questionnaires will be collected and modelled using the RADAR-base platform, a generic data management and analytics infrastructure originally designed for the RADAR-CNS project to help people with depression, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
For AD patients, the researchers are defining a list of ‘functional domains’ – data-driven common indicators of disease progression and cognitive decline that can be used to predict the transition from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s onset and dementia.
A study involving more than 200 people with preclinical AD, mild cognitive impairment due to AD and mild to moderate AD will evaluate the approach. The trial will examine associations between data insights from the selected technologies and the standard clinical scales that are typically used by doctors to characterise cognitive function in AD patients. The study will also assess the technical performance of RADAR-AD’s digital platform in a real-life setting and investigate user acceptance of the technology.
‘Barriers to adoption of this approach must be identified at the outset, especially how patients and caregivers respond to the digital technologies. We must also identify and negotiate potential regulatory hurdles,’ Årsland says.
The project team is therefore working closely with patients and carers on both platform development and designing the trials. If the evaluation is successful, the researchers plan to seek validation from regulatory agencies for data-driven assessment and monitoring of AD progression, potentially enabling widespread adoption by health systems looking for improved care outcomes and reduced costs. ‘The tailored combination of digital devices and smartphone applications in RADAR-AD can act as a powerful new tool in personalised medicine by offering the right treatments to the right patients for maximum benefit, while reducing the cost of unnecessary or inappropriate treatments,’ Årsland says.
The project is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public-private partnership between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry.
Project acronym: RADAR-AD
Participants: United Kingdom (Coordinator), Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece
Project N°: 806999
Total costs: € 7 640 145
EU contribution: € 4 999 757
Duration: January 2019 to June 2022
Source: European Commission, Research and Innovation Information Centre