Understanding Alzheimer’s disease by data mining the Donepezil Data Repository

Large clinical trial databases represent a wealth of clinical and scientific information which could potentially hold the key to new discoveries, breakthroughs and advancements in knowledge gaps of a particular disease or its treatment and management. In a recent study published in Trials, the value of data mining the Donepezil Data Repository in furthering the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease was demonstrated.

A team of leading researchers from academia and industry came together to investigate the nature of Alzheimer’s disease and the effectiveness of treatment using donepezil, marketed under the trade name Aricept®. The Donepezil Data Repository, which consisted of 18 randomized, controlled trials conducted between 1991 and 2005, was also used to address questions beyond the aims and scope of the original individual trials. This work resulted in six scientific papers being published in leading journals covering different topics such as rates of cognitive change in Alzheimer’s disease, predicting cognitive decline and the effect of donepezil in reducing clinical symptoms of mild, moderate and severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The value of data sharing and collaboration has previously been demonstrated in this field, in particular in August 2010, when The New York Times published an article titled Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s. In this high-profile initiative, a group of scientists and executives from the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, industries, universities and non-profit organisations collaborated in a project to investigate the biological markers involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain. The purpose was to share all the data and make the findings publicly available. This effort has not only produced numerous scientific papers on the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but also led to more than 100 studies to test drugs which could slow or stop the disease.

Whilst projects sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry can sometimes fail to spark interest in the academic research community due to concerns over commercial goals, the article in Trials reported a successful and fruitful collaboration between industry and academia. Furthermore, it demonstrates the value of data mining a clinical trial database, where data from multiple studies can be combined and analyzed to accelerate the advancement of medical knowledge.

Adeline Siew – Assistant Editor

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