Could this be the breakthrough that Alzheimer’s research has been waiting for?

News of success in a recent drug trial hit the media yesterday, showing some promise in the field of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. According to the paper published this week in Nature, scientists showed that by using high doses of an antibody called aducanumab that they were able to reduce the amount of amyloid plaques — a building block of Alzheimer’s disease — and essentially erase one of the visible signs of AD in the brain.

The study was conducted by scanning the brains of individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease in which participants were randomly selected to receive either a placebo or one of three doses of the antibody once a month over the course of a year. Results showed that those receiving the highest dosage showed the most reduction of amyloid with some also experiencing a slower rate of cognitive decline.

While this is not the first trial of its kind, one researcher on the study is very hopeful that this could be the breakthrough that Alzheimer’s research has been waiting for. “Compared to other studies published in the past, the effect size of this drug is unprecedented,” said Professor Roger Nitsch of Zurig University in an article issued by the Independent.

Kurt Brunden, PhD, director of Drug Discovery and research professor at Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), agrees that the current findings are encouraging, but believes more is needed to verify the true effectiveness.

BrundenKurt_hsThe Phase 1b clinical data obtained with aducanumab appear to be quite encouraging, with the apparent reduction in senile plaque burden as revealed by PET imaging being particularly noteworthy. However, this was a small trial that wasn’t designed to generate definitive data on improvement in patient cognitive performance. Thus, the results from ongoing larger clinical studies with this immunotherapeutic agent will be critical in demonstrating that a reduction in senile plaques in patients with mild cognitive impairments (MCI) or early AD results in an improvement in cognitive measures,” he explained.

Dr. Brunden’s work at CNDR focuses on overseeing research programs geared towards identifying therapeutic targets and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. He is leading this year’s CNDR Marian S. Ware Research Retreat, which will cover the topic of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease Drug Discovery and will feature a variety of presenters from Penn and beyond.

You can learn more about the aducanumab trial in this recently published article by TIME.

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