Are there drugs already on the market that may prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s disease? Some scientists think so. The latest study, reported on by Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly, showed that the cancer drug Carmustine cuts Alzheimer’s plaque by 75 percent in mice. Carmustine is a drug that is used to treat some forms of brain cancer.
Another study led by King's College London has identified four existing drugs and one drug class which could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s or even reduce the risk of developing the disease. This study is part of an ongoing project that hopes to accelerate the search for a treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s by examining existing drugs used for other diseases.
One of those drugs, Liraglutide, is prescribed for diabetes and is used to stimulate insulin production. Liraglutide is now in clinical studies for Alzheimer’s treatment since it has been shown to pass through the blood-brain barrier and protect brain cells.
Another cancer drug, Gleevec, is primarily used for myeloid leukemia. Gleevec has been shown to disable a key protein linked to the development of Alzheimer’s. The protein, gSAP, stimulates production of toxic beta-amyloid which is linked to the development of plaques in the brain that are typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
While there are scores of clinical trials taking place right now in the hope of finding a new drug to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease, most of these new drugs will not be marketable for years. Individuals nearing the age when Alzheimer’s symptoms are most likely to appear, as well as those who already have symptoms of the disease, don’t have years to wait. The existing drugs used for treating other diseases already have received FDA approval for treating a specific disease. While the drugs may not yet be approved for Alzheimer’s, if studies show they are useful in treating AD this approval process should be significantly shorter than for a newly developed drug.
There may be more than one approach to solving the Alzheimer’s puzzle. New drugs, new therapies and currently existing drugs given a new purpose are all possible contenders. Research dollars are needed, as are volunteers for clinical trials.
Fortunately, a new funding bill has just been signed into law by President Obama that contains an unprecedented $122 million increase for Alzheimer's research, education, outreach and caregiver support. My hope is that some of this additional funding will go toward further researching existing drugs to see if the most promising ones will yield solid results in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Araki, W. (2013) Wataru Araki, Potential repurposing of oncology drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. BMC Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-11-82.pdf
Hayes, C. et. al. (2013) Striking reduction of amyloid plaque burden in an Alzheimer's mouse model after chronic administration of carmustine. BMC Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1741-7015-11-81.pdf
Whiteman, H. (2013, September 16) Diabetes drug enters clinical trial for Alzheimer's treatment. MedicalNewsToday.com. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266081.php
Medical Xpress (2012, November 1) Everyday drugs could combat dementia, according to major study. Retrieved from http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-11-everyday-drugs-combat-dementia-major.html
Published On: February 05, 2014