Hopes rise again for a drug to slow Alzheimer’s disease

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Trials for a new experimental Alzheimer


A new experimental Alzheimer’s drug has been shown to slow cognitive decline.

After 18 months, patients who received the highest dose of the drug, an antibody called BAN2401, saw a marked improvement in cognition versus a placebo pill.

The data was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago on Wednesday and was a welcome to surprise to neurologists who’ve seen once-promising treatments fail repeatedly.

The discovery sheds fresh light on the age-related brain disease and could offer hope of better treatments. 

Trials for a new experimental Alzheimer’s drug was shown to slow cognitive decline, providing hope for a cure for the degenerative disease (file image)

An estimated 5.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.

Sufferers experience a decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities and there is currently no cure.

There are many caveats about the new study, which was led by company scientists rather than academic researchers and not reviewed by outside experts.

For one, the drug – created by Biogen and Eisai – did not meet its main goal in a study of 856 participants so, overall, it was considered a flop.

But company officials said that 161 people who received the highest dose every two weeks for 18 months did significantly better than 245 people who were given a dummy treatment.

HOW TO DETECT ALZHEIMER’S

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.

It is the cause of 60 percent to 70 percent of cases of dementia.

The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are age 65 and older.

More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

It is unknown what causes Alzheimer’s. Those who have the APOE gene are more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s.

 Signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty remembering newly learned information
  • Disorientation
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
  • More serious memory loss
  • Difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking

Stage of Alzheimer’s:

  • Mild Alzheimer’s (early-stage) – A person may be able to function independently but is having memory lapses
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s (middle-stage) – Typically the longest stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late-stage) – In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation and, eventually, control movement

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but experts suggest physical exercise, social interaction and adding brain boosting omega-3 fats to your diet to prevent or slowdown the onset of symptoms.

Experts also add a larger study is needed for the results to be considered definitive.  

However, a glimmer of success is welcomed after other drug trials have resulted in failure. 

‘We’re cautiously optimistic,’ said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

‘A 30 percent slowing of decline is something I would want my family member to have,’ and the drug’s ability to clear the brain plaques ‘looks pretty amazing,’ she said.

Study participants were given one of five doses of BAN2401 or a dummy treatment via IV. 

After one year, the companies said the drug didn’t meet statistical goals. But after 18 months, they saw a benefit in the highest dose group. 

In one traditional measure of thinking skills, those at the highest dose declined 47 percent less than people given a dummy treatment.

Another sign of the effectiveness of the drug was seen brain scans. 

At the beginning of the study, all the participants had signs of amyloid beta plaques, which are believed to build up in the brain and interfere with neural signals. 

But, after 18 months, 81 percent of people on the highest dose saw all signs of them disappear, according to an Eisai official. 

Dr Reisa Sperling, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said it’s important to realize that this is not a cure, just possibly a slowing of decline.

‘We’re not suddenly returning people back to their pre-Alzheimer’s baseline,’ she said. 

Shares of Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Eisai, based in Tokyo, soared after July 5 when they announced that the drug had slowed the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease for certain patients.

Biogen’s stock jumped 19.6 percent in one day, its biggest move in 14 years, and has continued to rise. Eisai rocketed 40 percent in two days. 

 





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