New Drug Trial Seeks to Stop Alzheimer’s Before It Starts
In a clinical trial that could lead to treatments that prevent Alzheimer’s, people who are genetically guaranteed to develop the disease — but who do not yet have any symptoms — will for the first time be given a drug intended to stop it, US federal officials announced Tuesday.
Experts say the study will be one of the few ever conducted to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease. For Alzheimer’s, the trial is unprecedented, “the first to focus on people who are cognitively normal but at very high risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Most participants will come from the world’s largest family to experience Alzheimer’s, an extended clan of 5,000 people who live in Medellín, Colombia, and remote mountain villages outside that city. Family members with a specific genetic mutation begin showing cognitive impairment around age 45, and full dementia around age 51, debilitated in their prime working years as their memories fade and the disease quickly assaults their ability to move, eat, speak and communicate.
Three hundred family members will participate in the initial trial. Those with the mutation will be years away from symptoms, some as young as 30.
“Because of this study, we do not feel as alone,” said Gladys Betancur, 39, a family member. Her mother died of Alzheimer’s, three of her siblings already have symptoms, and she had a hysterectomy because of her fears that she has the mutation and would pass it on to her children. “Sometimes we think that life is ending, but now we feel that people are trying to help us.”
The $100 million study will last five years, but sophisticated tests may indicate in two years whether the drug helps delay memory decline or brain changes, said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix and a study leader.
Read more at New York Times.com