If we choose, we may view the many conflicting reports on drug trials for Alzheimer’s during 2012 as discouraging. After all, two very promising drugs in late-stage trials last fall failed to show the potential that researchers were looking for. Yet, on a quieter level, progress was being made.
CBS News recently aired a segment about an Alzheimer’s vaccine that may be available, depending on funding – and volunteers for the studies – in three to five years. This vaccine is in mid-stage testing.
Additionally, this year, a study called DIAN TU will begin. DIAN TU is the first study in progress to try to prevent Alzheimer's. Study participants will be people who have a genetic mutation that causes early onset Alzheimer’s, but are thought to be approximately a decade away from symptoms. This approach will include three drugs, each of which attack the disease in a different way.
The report also said that as many as 30 other trials may begin this year on different approaches to preventing or reversing Alzheimer’s. Conducting many studies simultaneously should substantially speed up the discovery and approval of a medication that could prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies underway include:
- Roche Group's biologic antibody drug gantenerumab, which removes amyloid beta plaques from the brain. It's already in late-stage testing in patients who don't have symptoms but have abnormally high levels of amyloid beta in their spinal fluid.
- Lilly's solanezumab, which binds to smaller bits of amyloid beta and clears them from the brain before they clump into plaques.
- Lilly's BACE inhibitor, now in midstage testing in Alzheimer's patients. The company expects by mid-2013 to complete work needed to determine whether the drug is right for the prevention study.
- Two late-stage patient studies were started last fall with a drug called LMTX developed by TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd. This drug targets tangles in the brain that have an abnormal version of a protein called tau.
According to the researchers who are working to develop and perfect these drugs, money is the biggest barrier to moving forward quickly with the clinical studies that could receive FDA approval for their drugs.
For people who already suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, these studies and the resulting treatments may come too late. That’s one reason that I like to see studies on drugs already approved by the FDA for other illnesses that also show promise as Alzheimer’s treatments, as well as mechanical processes like deep brain stimulation which shows huge promise as a treatment.
If you know of someone interested in these or other Alzheimer’s clinical trials, please go to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov to find out how to apply.
People with Alzheimer’s disease need hope. Telling them something may be available in three to five years is terrific news for others, but they need something now. We need funding for new drugs as well as funding for existing medicine or therapies that could possibly be available very soon. Let’s hope we see that kind of funding become a priority despite our nation’s financial problems. It’s far less expensive to get these drugs on the market early than it will be to care for millions of aging boomers who, without treatment options, will likely develop AD.