UF Lewy body dementia expert earns $3.2 million NIH grant

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Dr. Melissa Armstrong

By Todd Taylor

A UF neurologist has earned a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging to expand her research into dementia with Lewy bodies, or DLB.

The grant will fund a study led by Melissa Armstrong, M.D., an associate professor of neurology, to improve end-of-life experiences for individuals with DLB and their families.

DLB is part of Lewy body dementia, the second most common degenerative dementia in the U.S. behind Alzheimer’s disease. Over 70% of patients with DLB die of failure to thrive or other complications from the disease, Armstrong said.

“Our earlier research found that families didn’t know what to expect at the end of life of their loved one with DLB,” she said. “This study seeks to address this unmet need by identifying what issues predict these patients’ last six months of life. It will also investigate what factors affect quality end-of-life experiences.”

During the five-year study, researchers will meet with patients with moderate- to late-stage DLB and their primary caregiver every six months. If patients die during the course of the study, the researchers will meet with the caregiver several months later to learn more about their experience.

With no cure and limited treatment options available for DLB, Armstrong believes her team’s research can make a significant difference in the lives of those living with the disease.

“We hope that the results of this study will help physicians counsel people with DLB and their families about what to expect and also help guide the timing of hospice care,” said Armstrong, who serves as director of the Mangurian Clinical-Research Headquarters for Lewy Body Dementia at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health. “While we await a cure for this difficult disease, we want to make sure the end-of-life experience is as positive as possible.”

Read about Dr. Armstrong’s study examining biological & social differences in people with Lewy body disease.

Read Dr. Armstrong’s article about Lewy body dementia in The Conversation.