Most of the clinical trials that were completed in 2017 focused on removing or stopping the production of amyloid from the brains of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Amyloid is an abnormal protein that builds up like plaque in the brain and is thought to be a major contributor to Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairment.
Although the trials themselves were not successful, there is still hope for this general treatment approach. The results from the trials suggest that these types of drugs may work best if people started taking the medication before too much amyloid is present in the brain. The current train of thought is that the accumulation of amyloid may trigger a cascade of events that may lead to cognitive decline.
Extinguishing the Fire – Before it Begins
“Think of amyloid as kindling,” says Eric Reiman, MD, executive director, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “When it comes to fire, if you can clear an at-risk area of kindling, you’re less likely to start a fire. But once a raging fire has started, taking away the kindling won’t matter.”
Reiman says that future trials of anti-amyloid will likely focus on early prevention – aimed at clearing the amyloid before it accumulates and sets ablaze. This does not mean we are giving up finding treatments for people who already have a diagnosis, but rather we may need to focus on targets other than amyloid once symptoms of the disease are present.
Says Dr. Reiman, “Alzheimer’s drug development is not for the faint-hearted. We need the fortitude to stay the course and to continue to develop more investigational treatments. When it comes to Alzheimer’s research, the mantra is to ‘never give up’.”
Past Year Points to Greater Need for Study Participants.
Although 2017 may not have been a headline year for Alzheimer’s research, a lot of knowledge was gathered that will inform future studies. But those studies can’t move forward without participants. Did you know that 80 percent of studies are delayed because too few people sign up? With a renewed focus on the horizon for preventative studies, now is the time to get involved.