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Amyloid therapies show promise for slowing dementia


Latest research data has provided the first hints that amyloid therapies may slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Antibodies that clear amyloid plaques from the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may be the first therapy to demonstrate slowing of cognitive decline, according to research presented today.

“After a decade of no new therapies for dementia, today’s news is an exciting step forward”

Doug Brown

Findings from industry studies of three alternative antibody therapies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International conference in Washington.

Interim results from a safety study of aducanumab in people with very early stage Alzheimer’s disease show that the drug reduced the amount of the amyloid plaques in the brain, with an increasing effect as the dose was increased.

Although the study is only designed to test safety, a dose-dependent reduction in cognitive impairment was observed.

However, over a quarter of people on the higher doses of the drug, which is being developed by Biogen, experienced headaches and a third to a half experienced abnormalities on a brain scan.

Meanwhile, long-term analysis of the Ely Lilly drug solanezumab – in the EXTENSION EXT study – reported that people with mild Alzheimer’s disease who have taken the drug for 3.5 years showed some benefits in cognition, compared to those who have only taken it for two years.

In addition, results from the Scarlet RoAd trial of ganterenerumab in people at very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease suggested the drug was able to reduce amyloid in the brain and that a higher dose may be required to see any clinical effect.

However, the trial was terminated earlier this year by Roche, as it was considered unlikely to find any significant effect on cognition.

Dr Doug Brown, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that after a decade of no new therapies for dementia the new study results were “an exciting step forward”.

Alzheimer's Society

Doug Brown

The trial findings “strongly” suggested that targeting people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s with antibody treatments was the “best way to slow or stop” the disease, he said.

“These drugs are able to reduce the sticky plaques of amyloid that build up in the brain, and now we have seen the first hints that doing this early enough may slow disease progression,” said Dr Brown.

“We will have to wait for the ongoing trials to finish to know the full risks and benefits of these drugs,” he said. “If they are positive, these drugs will be the first identified to directly interfere with the disease process and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Speaking specifically on aducanumab, Dr Brown noted that the drug was “not without side effects”, which might be “unacceptable to some”.

“We look forward to seeing whether this truly is an effective treatment when the current trial ends in a few years,” he said.

On solanezumab, he said it was “good news” that some patients had been receiving the antibody for over three years with beneficial effects.

“The current trial has finished recruiting participants, so in just 18 months we may get an exciting first look at the final results,” he said.


Readers' comments (4)

  • michael stone

    I have mixed feelings about this one.

    As currently there are no really effective treatments for dementia, at one level this looks quite good.

    However, as it only seems to work by preventing very early-stage dementia from developing, and as early-stage dementia isn't all that easy to diagnose, I'm cynical that we might all end up being treated to stop dementia from developing without any evidence of the disease being present, in much the same way that we oldies should all apparently now be taking statins.

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  • MS, I have to agree. GPs are already getting paid for dementia assessment. I suspect some people with some memory problems will be put into this category wrongly. I have read comments in PULSE suggesting the same. As for statins, I personally feel the jury is still out on this one. Unfortunately, we are being fitted into boxes, and professional judgement common sense no longer prevails, but big pharma does. At 64, I find this all quite disturbing. If we all follow recommended guidelines that 'promise' to make us live longer, the more likely we are to develop long term conditions eventually. I don't fully get this. One conclusion is (as a cynical old bird) is that it's shifting the 'problem' to the next generation. In other words, a short term fix for the present time!

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  • michael stone | 23-Jul-2015 1:46 pm

    nonsense, you are neither clinician or research. you know nothing about the subject.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 25-Jul-2015 0:48 am

    Margaret McCartney has been writing about this one on BMJ - she claims, there isn't any convincing evidence that it even works:

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