A study published in Nature has been making headlines after hinting at the efficacy of a drug trial that has been shown to halt brain decline.
Experts are approaching the results with caution, stating that primary findings are only in their initial stages, and any results may change pending further investigation and a longer trial time.
The drug, Aducanumab, targets the characteristic protein plaques that build up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s.
165 patients were given the drug, at a regular dose, for a year. After the first 12 months, the dosage was increased, subsequently increasing the effect on amyloid plaques.
Following initial findings, tests were carried out to determine whether any changes had been made to memory. These findings proved positive.
Whilst the findings were positive for the majority of participants, 40 people dropped out of the study, citing symptoms like headaches and other side effects that apparently grew with increased dosage.
Doctors will now move into Phase 3 of the research project, which will consist of tests using two separate groups made up of 2,700 patients in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s.
Dr Alfred Sandrock of Biogen, the company assisting the University of Zurich throughout the trials, reiterated the importance of moving the trials to the next phase.
“Phase 3 really needs to be done and I hope it will confirm what we have seen in this study.
“One day I could envisage treating people who have no symptoms because if you have amyloid in the brain it’s likely you’ll develop Alzheimer’s one day.”
Drug development for Alzheimer’s patients has previously been met with disappointment. With the most recent drug being licensed over a decade ago, medical practitioners are waiting for breakthrough research to manifest into actual products, and fast.
A statement released by the Alzheimer’s Society insisted that whilst this news is exciting, it is worth noting that the trails are in very early stages and need far greater research to test the drug’s impact on memory and cognition.
“These early results show promise in targeting the amyloid protein as a method to slow the memory and thinking decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“We need to see the results of the ongoing larger trials to understand whether the drug is effective when it comes to treating the people with Alzheimer’s. These results are expected after the larger trials finish in 2020, with analysis of their results expected to be completed by 2022. ”
John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London, told BBC, that “these new data are tantalising but they are not yet definitive.”
Until then, researchers remain cautiously optimistic.