Campaigners have called for more Government funding into research of Alzheimer's as cases in Birmingham are set to spiral by 10 per cent within 15 years.

Thousands of families across the city face the added burden of caring for relatives suffering from dementia that can strike people as young as in their 40s.

Researchers at the London School of Economics and King's College have found dementia currently affects 9,378 people in Birmingham and is set to rise to 10,305 by 2021.

But in the past five years Government funding into this area has been halved from £12.9 million in 2000/01 to £6.8 million in 2004/05.

Birmingham MP Clare Short, who spent years caring for her second husband, former Home Office Minister Alex Lyon, who fell victim to Alzheimer's before his death in 1993, said more needed to be done to help sufferers and their carers.

The Independent MP for Ladywood, who has previously spoken out of the need for health providers to listen to carers, branded the under-funding of Alzheimer's research as "very worrying".

She said: "More than 180,000 new cases of dementia occur in England and Wales every year but still only a small proportion of research funding is allocated to it.

"By 2021, 10,305 people in Birmingham are expected to be suffering from dementia. The ageing population is growing rapidly, and dementia is fast becoming a major burden.

"Great advances in our understanding of the disease and new approaches to treatment and prevention are being made in the UK. This is why I am supporting the Alzheimer's Research Trust's campaign to ensure funding for Alzheimer's is given a vital boost."

The Dementia UK report, published by the Alzheimer's Society, found a growing number of carers were being diagnosed with depression from looking after relatives or loved ones for up to 24-hours a day.

The charity has called for funding to improve carer training and establish support networks, as well as offer respite care for patients and their carers.

Just £11 per person in Britain is spent on dementia research, compared with £289 for each cancer patient.

That adds up to £6 million and £189 million a year respectively, despite the fact that both conditions affect a similar number of people.

Andrew Chidgey, the Alzheimer's Society's head of policy and campaigns, last night said the reason for the dramatic difference was a lack of awareness.

"Historically cancer and heart disease have had far more attention at a political and public level," he said.

"We are going to have to get a lot better in terms of supporting people and their families."

Bernard Hawker, from Walsall, whose wife battled the disease, said: "The impact of Alzheimer's on the lives of the families and carers of those suffering diagnosed with it is incalculable.

"To watch a parent or loved one slowly become consumed by this devastating illness is a truly harrowing experience.

"Unless more funding is provided the extent of suffering as a result of dementia is set to spiral."

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, added: "Funding for research into future treatments is not growing fast enough to match this escalation."

Last night a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Dementia has been identified as a key healthcare priority and Alzheimer's disease is one of four areas targeted to benefit from an extra £100 million per year of research and development.

"In addition, the new Older People's Mental Health programme is designed to deliver much needed service improvements to ensure that older people with dementia do not miss out."