The search for treatments for dementia is pushing on. Over the past year, potential new treatments have shown signs of benefit in clinical trials, particularly in people with early-stage Alzheimer’s. A final stage clinical trial of the drug solanezumab, which recently showed evidence of being able to change the course of the disease, is underway among people with mild Alzheimer's.

 "The benefits were small and we await the trial results to see the real benefit of the drug but there is a feeling that we’re moving in the right direction," says Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research, Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Current treatments for Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies (should include definition, also DLB) offer limited symptomatic help but a major research goal is to slow or stop the underlying diseases. The past five years have yielded disappointing results in clinical trials for disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s but improved trial design is helping researchers target the right people at the right time.

Meanwhile Alzheimer's Research UK has spearheaded two drug discovery initiatives. "The Dementia Consortium and the Drug Discovery Alliance are designed to translate lab researchers' ideas into potential drugs on their way towards clinical testing in people," says Ridley.

The charity has also launched a Global Clinical Trials Fund to support trials for promising drug and non-drug treatments.

Ridley adds: "There is a desperate need for effective new treatments, but we must also remember the value of research into prevention and diagnosis,"

Alzheimer's Reseach UK is also working with other international funders on information sharing and joint research funding.

How realistic is the possibility of a cure or treatment by 2025, as pledged at the 2014 G8 dementia summit? Ridley says: "This is a tough challenge. It will need a concerted effort across organisations, countries, researchers, clinicians, the pharma/biotech sector and greater investment. Cancer charities invest over £350m a year into research compared to only £17m for dementia charities.

There is also a new way for ordinary people to help in pioneering studies. Join Dementia Research allows volunteers to take part in research. Visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk or call the Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5111.