Netherlands launches large scale collaboration to improve diagnosis of dementia, as part of its National Dementia Strategy

16/02/2023

On 16 February 2023, as part of the Dutch National Dementia Strategy, a large-scale research consortium called “TAP-dementia” (Timely, Accurate and Personalized diagnosis of dementia) was launched. Researchers throughout the Netherlands will collaborate, through TAP-dementia, to improve the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other types of dementia. With over 55 million people living with the condition worldwide, dementia is among the world’s largest healthcare challenges. Different brain diseases can cause dementia and identifying the specific disease underlying dementia can be a complex process. This is one of the reasons why it often takes years before a diagnosis is made. Sometimes no diagnosis is made at all and while the person knows they have dementia, they don’t know which type.

A good diagnosis is important, because it is the gateway to appropriate care and treatment. Knowing the cause of signs and symptoms is important for people with dementia and their families, so that they can then develop a better understanding of what to expect and how to manage things. An accurate diagnosis is also the starting point for developing effective treatment strategies. Thanks to the development of reliable biomarkers, the diagnosis of AD has improved considerably. TAP-dementia aims to improve scalability and accessibility of AD diagnosis, as well as other types of dementia, such as vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies. Some individuals can have more than one form of dementia. “For this reason we focus on mixed pathology, or the co-occurrence of more than one brain disease in the same person. Because we know this is very common”, says Professor Wiesje van der Flier, project lead of TAP-dementia. Ten organisations have joined forces in TAP-dementia to complete five research projects. TAP-dementia will study how diagnoses fit best with the wishes and needs of patients and their families.

Promising diagnostic tests for different types of dementia will be evaluated in clinical practice. Finally, TAP-dementia will develop novel tests, with the goal to refine the diagnosis and identify disease processes more precisely. In this way, the researchers plan to improve the diagnosis of AD and other types of dementia. Within the consortium, people with dementia and their families play an important role. These people know the diagnostic trajectory better than anyone and they can help researchers understand where there is room for improvement. This group of will also help to ensure that researchers stay focused on the important issues and that study findings are subsequently applied in clinical practice. TAP-dementia is a Dutch national consortium, led by Prof. van der Flier, scientific director of Alzheimer Center Amsterdam, Amsterdam UMC.

The consortium inlcudes five Alzheimer centres (Amsterdam UMC – location VUmc, Erasmus MC, University Maastricht, RadboudUMC, UMC Groningen), UMC Utrecht, Amsterdam UMC – location AMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Elisabeth TweeSteden Ziekenhuis, Vilans and the Dutch Memory Clinic Network. As part of the National Dementia Strategy 2021-2030, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has recommended to intensify research efforts on causes of dementia, diagnosis, young onset dementia, prevention, and innovative treatments of dementia. TAP-dementia is one of the consortia launched under the umbrella of the National Dementia Strategy, as part of Onderzoeksprogramma Dementie of ZonMW. More information can be found on the website (in Dutch): https://www.alzheimercentrum.nl/wetenschap/lopend-onderzoek/tap-dementia/

A short animation video (with English subtitles) can be viewed, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Lq-RiP8_SE