Have scientists found a drug to stop Alzheimer’s disease?
Eli Lilly is due to announce results of its latest trial into Solanezumab at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Wednesday
The first drug that can halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease if caught early is expected to be unveiled this week.
Trials have been ongoing into a new treatment called Solanezumab which appears to stop the degenerative disease in its tracks.
The results will be announced by drugs giant Eli Lilly on at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Wednesday morning but if positive it will be the first drug proven to be effective for treating dementia.
Solanezumab, is an antibody which works by binding to the amyloid plaques which cause Alzheimer’s disease and clearing them from the brain.
Initial trials failed to show any benefit, but when researchers went back over the data they found that it seemed to work in people with mild symptoms and launched a new study.
There are 850,000 people currently suffering from dementia in the UK, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type. The disease kills at least 60,000 people each year.
Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it would be interesting to find out if the treatment worked in the long term.
“Current treatments only help with symptoms. They enable nerve cells to communicate with each other more effectively, but don’t stop the underlying disease from getting worse,” he said.
“Eventually the effect of these treatments wears off as the damage to the brain overwhelms the modest benefit afforded by the drugs.”
Officially, Eli Lilly is saying nothing about its results. However, its researchers presented results at a recent conference where they said: “Results from 28 weeks’ treatment suggest patients who received Solanezumab had a cognitive benefit not recovered by patients who began Solanezumab later.”
In a final sentence, they added: “This is thought consistent with a treatment effect that changes the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Many organisations are currently trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Last year Stanford University announced that it had discovered that boosting the immune system could help the body to clear away the toxic plaques on its own. They are currently developing a drug which can boost the protein needed to trigger the ramped up immune response in the brain.
Imperial College has discovered how to turn off an enzyme which is driving many incurable diseases including Alzheimer’s and cancer. Scientists at Ulster and Lancaster Universities found that diabetes drugs Liraglutide and Lixisenatide prevent amyloid plaques forming in mice.
And a number of organisations now claim to have developed tests which can pick up the earliest signs of dementia 10 years before the first symptoms appear.
But if Eli Lilly reports a success on Wedsneday it will be the first phase three trial in patients to show beneficial results and will mark a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.