Sunday, January 21, 2018
Health

Antibody therapy offers glimmer of hope in treating Alzheimer's

An initial trial of an antibody therapy that targets Alzheimer's disease has shown promising results and could signal a long-awaited breakthrough in treating the devastating brain disorder that affects over 5 million Americans.

The antibody, known as aducanumab, targets a protein called amyloid beta that builds up in the brain and creates plaques associated with the disease. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, a trial to evaluate the drug's safety and tolerability showed positive results. Of 165 patients, those who received monthly infusions of the drug for a year showed a significant reduction in amyloid beta and slower cognitive decline than those receiving a placebo.

The therapy is now being tested for efficacy in larger trials. If those are successful, aducanumab could be the first new Alzheimer's drug to be approved in over a decade and the first to reverse signs of the disease.

"Overall, this is the best news that we've had in my 25 years doing Alzheimer's clinical research and it brings new hope for patients and families most affected by the disease," said one of the study's authors, Stephen Salloway, director of neurology in the Memory and Aging program and professor of neurology and psychiatry at Brown University.

Researchers divided recipients into four groups, receiving either a placebo, a low dose of aducanumab, a medium dose or a high dose.

"The higher the dose the larger the degree of reduction, and the longer the treatment, the larger the degree of reduction," said another study author, Roger Nitsch, director at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Zurich.

In PET brain scans taken of people receiving the highest dose, "after one year you can see no red on the image, meaning the amyloid has almost completely disappeared," Nitsch said. Compared to past studies, he added, "the effect size of this drug is unprecedented."

Higher doses did result in some adverse reactions among carriers of the APOE4 gene associated with Alzheimer's, including slight brain swelling and bleeding seen in MRI brain scans. But for most recipients this side effect was manageable by careful monitoring and adjusting of the drug, the authors said.

An estimated 5.2 million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer's, and experts predict that number will nearly triple by 2050 in the absence of new treatments. Five FDA-approved drugs can alleviate some symptoms, but in the past 12 years no new drugs have been approved for the disease, which at $236 billion a year is the most expensive disease in the U.S.

In recent years, several promising therapies have failed to show positive results in later trials. But the technology that can identify amyloid plaques in the brains of living patients — which was used in the new study — has been a game-changer for researchers.

"Before, people (in trials) were screened by cognitive tests and they may or may not have had amyloid," potentially skewing study results, said James Hendrix, director of global science initiatives at the Alzheimer's Association.

"This trial has reinvigorated the field and clearly created a lot more excitement about amyloid as a target," he said of the aducanumab study. "There's been a lot of debate over the last 20 years over the role of amyloid (and) how important it is in the disease." Successful Phase 3 trials of the drug would add strong support for the hypothesis that preventing or clearing amyloid buildup can help patients, he said.

And while experts believe the key to stopping Alzheimer's will ultimately require a combination of approaches, "right now we need one good one, a new one.

"If aducanumab and others in the pipeline have the promise of maybe preventing and slowing down the progression, it could let (people) live out their golden years the way they want to."

Comments
Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Doctors at some of the largest U.S. hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible, and now they shoulder part of the blame for the nationís opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, theyíve b...
Published: 01/19/18
Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Cristi Fryberger, a fifth-grade teacher, was headed back for the first day of classes at St. Petersburg Christian School after the Christmas break but didnít feel well. She left a couple of hours later and went to an urgent care clinic, where a swab ...
Published: 01/19/18
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owensís father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ĎYou know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Published: 01/18/18
5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

Five things we learned about President Donald Trump from Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who oversaw Trumpís first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesnít get much shut-eye. Jackson guessed that Trump snoozes four to five hours a nig...
Published: 01/17/18
A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON ó The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after one of historyís most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.Through this and similar programs ó think Tysonís Project A+ or General Millsí Box ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you donít want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Published: 01/16/18

CDC says ĎThereís lots of flu in lots of places.í And itís not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18
Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

SAFETY HARBOR ó Mease Countryside Hospital is launching a $156 million expansion to build a four-story patient tower with all private rooms and a four-story parking garage.The tower will include 70 private patient rooms, a 30-bed observation unit, cr...
Published: 01/11/18
Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

This yearís flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, weíre being told, ...
Published: 01/11/18