They Have Alzheimer’s. This Clinical Trial May Be a Last Hope.

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A few years ago, Michael Gross, 73, of Mahwah, N.J., began to realize something was wrong. “I was confused about words,” he said, “and it continued to get worse.”

But Mr. Gross, the retired head of an advertising agency, was taken aback when a doctor suggested a spinal tap to look for proteins that are a sign of Alzheimer’s. He could not have that disease, Mr. Gross thought.

“I said, ‘No way, not me,’” he said.

But he did.

He wept, he despaired.

Then he asked, What could he do about it?

He switched to the Mediterranean diet. He started exercising. He began doing crossword puzzles and subscribed to a challenging brain-training program. He found a study in mice claiming a bright light shined at their heads helped with Alzheimer’s. He bought the light.

The disease kept progressing. Now he cannot remember the details of a news story as he reads it.

Mr. Gross, a lifelong Yankees fan, was unnerved the day he forgot the name of the team’s former manager, Casey Stengel, and became determined to keep it in his memory.

“Every day I wake up and tell myself ‘Casey Stengel, Casey Stengel,’” he says.

Then he forgot the word “sardines,” a staple of his Mediterranean diet. “For a week I said to myself, ‘sardines, sardines,’” Mr. Gross said.

But what he really wanted was a treatment powerful enough to stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks.

Mr. Gross saw an ad on Facebook for the Lilly clinical trial. That Friday morning he arrived for a test to see if he was eligible. It consisted of a brain scan for a protein, tau, that is found in dead and dying brain neurons. If he had too little tau, he would not be eligible.

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