Phase 1 Alzheimer’s trial results show potential benefits for patients

Posted on 20th March 2015

Early results from a phase 1b trial of a new Alzheimer’s drug suggest possible benefits for people in the early stages of the disease. The antibody, known as aducanumab or BIIB037, was tested by pharmaceutical company Biogen, with results presented today at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases and Related Neurological Disorders in Nice, France.

Aducanumab is an antibody designed to target a protein called amyloid, which accumulates in the brain in Alzheimer’s and is an early abnormality seen in the disease. The trial included 166 patients who had either mild Alzheimer’s symptoms or signs of early amyloid build-up in the brain. The study set out to evaluate whether the treatment was safe for this group of people, and to measure its effect on amyloid in the brain.

Participants were given regular injections of either aducanumab or a placebo over a period of 54 weeks, with people receiving a range of doses. Initial results from the trial show that the treatment was able to reduce the amount of amyloid in the brain, with the biggest reductions seen in those who received the highest doses. The results suggested that the antibody is safe enough for clinical trials to continue, although some participants experienced side effects early in their course of treatment.

The researchers also reported early data on people’s thinking and memory skills, which showed that while those taking the placebo saw a decline in cognition, those who received aducanumab had a slower rate of decline. Those on the highest doses of the treatment had the slowest rates of decline in cognition. The firm now plans to begin phase 3 trials to further assess the treatment’s potential.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“These are very promising early results, which not only demonstrate the safety of this treatment but also suggest it may hold benefits in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. While many previous anti-amyloid therapies have failed to meet their goals, these preliminary findings back up research suggesting that treatments targeting amyloid will need to be given early in the disease. Further data from this trial is yet to be reported, and it will be important to see this data as well as results from much larger trials before we can understand how effective this treatment may be.

“Alzheimer’s disease affects half a million people in the UK today, causing untold devastation, yet there are currently no treatments capable of stopping the disease in its tracks. While today’s results are promising, we must continue to invest in research and cast our net wide in the search for new ways to fight the disease.”

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