BOSTON, Mass. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Five and a half million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a condition that has no cure right now, and very few treatments. Now, in a first-of-its kind trial, researchers are testing a drug they hope will stop the disease in its tracks before damage begins.
Neurologist Reisa Sperling, Brigham and Women’s Hospital is one of the country’s top medical minds. For her, Alzheimer’s is very personal.
Dr. Sperling told Ivanhoe, “So, my grandfather developed symptoms when I was applying to medical school, and it definitely influenced my decision. And then, my dad unfortunately, died almost three years ago now, also of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Sperling is the lead researcher in the A4 trial.
“So, the A4 study aims to use an antibody that helps to clear the amyloid out of the brain, and hopefully will prevent the memory loss altogether one day in Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.
The researchers screened 15,000 people online and brought 4,000 people in for PET scans-looking for a buildup of the amyloid protein in the brain- before people had symptoms. Participants come into the lab every month for an infusion. Half receive the antibody solanezumab, and the other half get a placebo. Sixty-seven- year old Dennis Chan is a Boston computer scientist with a family history of dementia.
“Losing what has been kind of yourself is a pretty scary thing,” A4 trial participant, Dennis Chan, said.
Dr. Sperling says the last two years have brought disappointing results for clinical trials targeting later stages of Alzheimer’s. Outcomes that have fueled her fire.
“I think the research suggests that we need to go earlier and we need to not give up hope, not back down, but in fact to double down and to work harder on this disease so that it doesn’t defeat us,” Dr. Sperling said.
Fighting words from a clinician and scientist- on Alzheimer’s front lines.
Researchers are now enrolling participants in AHEAD 3-45 trials. They are looking to test antibodies in even younger participants starting at age 50. Researchers are also hoping to enroll people interested in Alzheimer’s prevention in the APT Web study, which will help screen for future participants. For more information, visit www.aptwebsudy.org.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Matt Goldschdmit, Editor.
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TOPIC: A4 Study: Double Down on Alzheimer’s
REPORT: MB #4691
PAST STUDIES: Alzheimer’s has been studied since 1906. It was first described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer. 25 years later, Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska begin to study brain cells by creating an electron microscope that magnifies up to one million times. Later, Edgar Miller showed through multiple studies that the main feature of Alzheimer’s is memory disorder. In the 1980s, researchers began to see that amnesia was the earliest and most salient aspect of the disease. Researchers have tried semantic encoding, but this proved to be less effective in improving memory. In 1993, the first drug is approved by the FDA called Cognex to target thinking and memory. In the early 2000s, researchers were able to identify genetic risks, and in the past decade researchers have focused on prevention.
PRESENT STUDIES: Along with the A4 study, there is also the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit, DIAN-TU) which is looking to slow down or stop the development of Alzheimer’s in individuals who have a set of mutations on genes that cause a rare form of Alzheimer’s. There is also the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative— two trials in one. The API studies therapies in people who have a gene mutation that causes Alzheimer’s but are without the symptoms. They are also looking into drugs that delay or prevent symptoms in people with genetic mutations as well. The second trial called Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease is looking at the effects of an immune-based therapy called crenezumab, which delivers antibodies against beta amyloid to reduce negative cognitive effects.
LOOKING AHEAD: For Dr. Reisa Sperling and the A4 study, the next steps are to bring the age down a little bit to 55 to look at people with low amyloid buildup in their brains and how they can prevent any more buildup in cases where patients are in the stage of cognitive decline. Randal Bateman, MD, of Washington University in St. Louis is looking to test another drug called a beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 inhibitor to block production of excess Aβ peptides in developing Alzheimer’s. Biogen’s aducanumab is an immunotherapy that targets amyloid plaques. Researchers will also take a second look at older drugs in select populations.
(Source: https://www.brightfocus.org/alzheimers/news/future-treatments-alzheimers-disease-where-are-they-headed and Reisa Sperling, MD)
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