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The past few decades have seen a number of medical breakthroughs that enabled the effective treatment of a range of conditions, transforming them from fatal into manageable ones. Examples include certain cancers and HIV. Conversely, progress on dementia has been limited. There are currently no treatments that will cure or even alter the progressive course of dementia, despite ongoing research investigating new therapies and care options. The UK Department of Health is interested in the potential to learn from other disease areas to better understand the particular social, economic, political, legislative and scientific contexts that have contributed to accelerating progress and breakthroughs in treatment. Such learning could helpfully inform dementia research and innovation efforts, and help identify levers for supportive policy development. This project analysed breakthroughs in the treatment of four selected conditions of ill health and seeks to identify potentially transferable lessons for the dementia context. Using evidence review and key informant interviews we sought to identify the series of 'events' that eventually led to a given breakthrough, and the key milestones in the process that have helped improve understanding and potential for treatment. We also aimed to capture the temporal and causal relationships between 'notable' events looking at a variety of factors implicated in the breakthrough pathway. The focus of this work was on political, economic, social, scientific and technological, and legal, regulatory and environmental factors.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Medical breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS, coronary heart disease, breast cancer and Parkinson's disease: An overview of key observations from the case studies

  • Chapter Three

    Applicability of case study lessons to dementia

  • Chapter Four

    On reflection: Potential areas for action and policy considerations

  • Appendix A

    HIV/AIDS case study

  • Appendix B

    Breast cancer case study

  • Appendix C

    Coronary heart disease case study

  • Appendix D

    Parkinson's disease case study

  • Appendix E

    Case study timelines

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the UK Department of Health and conducted by RAND Europe.

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