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Alzheimer's disease: The power of faith and the science of hope

A look at how one Northeast Ohio couple is putting their faith in both God and science in dealing with Alzheimer's disease.

CLEVELAND — If you spend any amount of time with John and Ann Domeck, you'll quickly learn even the tough stuff doesn't stand a chance for this couple, who married right after college.

At 56, John was active, the picture of health who rarely got sick, not even a cold. Neither spouse could have predicted he'd be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

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"Our faith plays a huge role in this. It's where it's always been church, there's always been God at the center of everything," Ann says.

So, when Cleveland Clinic approached them about a clinical trial for an experimental drug called lecanemab, they didn't hesitate.

"Nothing ever is a coincidence or happens by mistake. So I kind of feel like this is our way of maybe giving back that we never would've been able to before," John said. 

Lacanemab is a monoclonal antibody drug, targeting abnormal clumps of beta-amyloid plaque on the brain. 

A sticky protein contributing to cognitive decline.

All trial participants had early-stage Alzheimer's disease. 

Preliminary results show lecanemab slowed cognitive and functional decline by 27%, though numbers don't tell the whole story. 

"You know, it doesn't matter how people perform the test, a little bit better or worse --  in daily life, how it changes and I think goes back how many days people can remain independent without requiring assistance," says Dr. Babak Tousi, a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic.

John and Ann faithfully went to the Clinic for infusions every other week for 18 months, not knowing whether he got the actual drug or a placebo. 

But that has changed in the last few months, as John is now in the open label phase in which all participants now receive lecanemab. His disease has not worsened in the last two years and his long-term memory remains intact. For that, John and Ann are grateful. 

John is dedicated to tasks which work his cognitive function, including puzzles, reading, music and exercise. He and Ann travel while spending more time together, using laughter and faith to create even more lasting memories. 

LIST: Resources available for families living with Alzheimer's and dementia in Northeast Ohio

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