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Drugs Show Promise in Quest to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

New research shows medications that remove or reduce plaque in the brain may be likely to work best in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. That's the initial view of leading Alzheimer's disease researchers about findings from the phase 2 trial of crenezumab, a therapy licensed by the biotechnology firm Genentech, which were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2014 in Copenhagen (July 12-17) . Crenezumab targets protein fragments – called amyloid – that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. "The trial indicates that crenezumab has its best chance of working in a more preventive mode, before years of living with amyloid deposits in the brain have robbed people of their cognitive abilities," said Gabrielle Strobel, executive editor of Alzforum.

Crenezumab phase 2 clinical trials echo results from an earlier trial of a similar drug called solanezumab, which Eli Lilly is developing. Both trials found the medications are safe and tolerable for people, important information for future research.

"Having two anti-amyloid antibody medications that yield very similar results gives scientists confidence that the results are real," Strobel said.

The next step for researchers studying crenezumab and other anti-amyloid drugs is to evaluate how well they work for people with earlier-stage Alzheimer's. Consider these three exciting studies currently underway:

  • Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's Study (A4Study)—Healthy people ages 65-85 who are at risk for Alzheimer's disease are the focus of this study of solanezumab and its ability to slow memory loss associated with the amyloid buildup caused by Alzheimer's disease.
  • Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer's Disease Treatment Trial (API ADAD)—Banner Alzheimer's Institute (BAI) is collaborating with Genentech and the University of Antioquia Grupo de Neurosciencias on a study of the impact of crenezumab on a large, extended family in Colombia who have a rare genetic mutation that can trigger Alzheimer's symptoms by age 45.
  • Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network (DIAN)—Washington University School of Medicine is collaborating with researchers to study the impact of two anti-amyloid antibody medications – solanezumab and gantenerumab – on people who have a rare genetic mutation for autosomal dominant Alzheimer's.