No feud over CJD goal

March 12, 2004

An over-simplistic view of a difficult scientific challenge was portrayed by your article "'Bitter' feud stalls hunt for CJD cure" (March 5). The piece portrays the complex task of coordinating surveillance, research and care as a personalised conflict between scientists and gives the impression that progress to find treatments for this disease is virtually at a standstill.

Creating a national framework for tackling CJD, including vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, has required the development of referral procedures that address the coordination of many different clinical and research needs.

Specifically, we need procedures that will enable scientists, working with patients and carers, to monitor the incidence of the disease by making accurate and timely diagnoses as well as following the clinical course of the illness, particularly in relation to potential therapies.

And given the distressing nature of this disease, it is vitally important that surveillance and research procedures are as non-intrusive as possible for individual patients.

Inevitably this process has involved scientists expressing different views of the best way to address this task, but there is no question that all are agreed that the goal is an important one and needs to be achieved.

Before your article was printed, a meeting to discuss finalising referral procedures had already been arranged following confirmation of myself and my co-chair, Lester Firkins, to head the trial steering committee. I know that the Medical Research Council and its Prion Unit and Clinical Trials Unit, the University of Edinburgh and its CJD Surveillance Unit and the Department of Health are all committed to finalising suitable referral procedures so that scientific investigation of this disease and clinical care can proceed in a coordinated way.

David Armstrong
Co-chair of the trial steering committee for the MRC Prion 1 trial

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