The search for effective diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's has become a focus for scientists and philanthropists. A milestone on this path was reached on Wednesday, when the results of a promising clinical trial were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Chicago.
A new drug, an antibody called BAN2401, reached the brains of patients in a large clinical trial for the first time by simultaneously reducing the characteristic Alzheimer's plaques – beta-amyloid clusters – and slowing down the formulation of new ones. It reduced the existing clusters by an average of 70%.
In summary, the drug may be the first to successfully attack both the brain changes and the symptoms of memory-debilitating disease. To date, the treatment options available range from a handful of medications that can slow down memory loss for a few months.
The experiment was conducted by the American biotech company Biogen (biib) based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai. Dr. Eisai's Chief Clinical and Medical Officer Lynn Kramer told CNN: "These were people with very slight disabilities, some confusion that occasionally forgot someone's name, and that's the goal: to stop Alzheimer's disease when they do is in the mildest presentation. "
The news was very exciting, as the study showed that it is theoretically possible to remove plaque and alter cognition. This is proof of a concept that has not been achieved before.
But some experts were measured in their answers, saying that there would be no miracle cure for treating Alzheimer's, but rather a combination of treatments. They also called for cautious optimism in light of the fact that promising studies have failed.
More extensive studies will be the next step in fully deciding whether the new drug is really effective. Alzheimer's, the leading cause of dementia, affects approximately 44 million people worldwide, including 5.5 million Americans, and is expected to triple by 2050.