Setback for Alzheimer’s drug in final-stage trial

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By Alice Tuohy | Wednesday 13 June 2018

Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca have announced that they are ending two trials of the experimental Alzheimer’s drug lanebecestat. The announcement comes after an analysis indicated the drug was unlikely to meet the aims of the trial.

Lanebecestat belongs to a class of drugs known as BACE inhibitors which are designed to reduce the build-up of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid. BACE inhibitors block the action of a protein called BACE1, which processes amyloid protein into a form that is particularly prone to clumping together and accumulating in the brain.

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“It is disappointing whenever a potential drug doesn’t have the effect we are looking for, especially when it is in the final stages of clinical testing, but the research community will be able to learn from this trial and their findings will help inform future research efforts. There are more than 20 final-stage clinical trials of potential Alzheimer’s drugs currently underway and while this news is a setback, it is far from the end of the road.

“Lanebecestat is designed to affect the build-up of the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein, amyloid, and a challenge for this approach may be that we are not able to treat people early enough. While lanebecestat was being tested in people with very mild Alzheimer’s symptoms, amyloid begins to build up many years before there is any noticeable effect to a person’s memory and thinking skills. Techniques for reliably identifying very early Alzheimer’s brain changes, could provide a new window of opportunity in which to test anti amyloid drugs, and Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding research into early diagnosis alongside efforts to develop new treatments.

“This is the third trial of a BACE inhibitor drug to be discontinued this year, and while there can be important differences between the effects of drugs of the same class, this announcement does not come as complete surprise. There is good evidence to suggest that BACE inhibitors can help tackle amyloid build up in the brain, but many researchers believe they hold more potential as a preventative treatment for people at risk of Alzheimer’s, than as something that could improve symptoms for people who are already affected by the disease.

“Over half a million people are living with Alzheimer’s in the UK and as we are all living longer this number is set to rise. It is vital that we continue to fund research to better understand Alzheimer’s and drive progress towards new ways to help those affected.”


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Alice Tuohy