Brain 311 T.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Since the approval of four cholinesterase inhibitors in the 1990s and memantine
in 2003, there have been no new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, a condition
that currently affects more than 35 million people worldwide. Against this
backdrop, Paul Aisen of the University of California, San Diego, opened the 4th
International Conference on Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease (CTAD) on 3
November 2011 in San Diego, California. Aisen’s keynote address, now available
on Alzforum tracks the evolution of Alzheimer’s disease trials from the first
trials in 1986, to the above-mentioned approvals, to the many subsequent
failures. Aisen plots a new phase forward, with researchers having a better
handle on how to tackle the disease. Along with Aisen’s talk, Alzforum provides
highlights of ongoing trials that were presented at CTAD.
heads the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a major academic sponsor
of Alzheimer’s trials, said researchers have learned hard lessons about how to
conduct such trials. For one thing, there is a growing consensus in the field
that interventions are needed in the earliest stages of the disease, before the
brain has suffered significant damage. But how? Some trials have already been
conducted in people who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—in other words, who
have some memory problems but no dementia. But these trials have all failed, and
Aisen explains why. Since then, researchers have refined tools to identify those
people with MCI who will most likely progress to Alzheimer’s.
that mildly symptomatic stage, Aisen argued that researchers should go after the
disease even before any clinical symptoms appear. Recent studies have revealed
that there are signs of Alzheimer’s, which can be detected by measuring certain
proteins or taking images of the brain, even before people or their doctors know
anything is wrong. “We would like to move to the point where function is intact
and there are no clinical symptoms,” said Aisen. “We think this represents a
very promising population for clinically meaningful treatment.” Aisen and other
researchers are currently planning such a trial.
Other stories from the
CTAD meeting include the results of two trials, one of a medical food and one of
an agent that targets the protein clumps that gum up the brains of Alzheimer’s
patients; an upcoming feature that describes new technologies for conducting
clinical trials in the comfort of people’s homes; and another on a possible new
method for detecting Alzheimer’s disease by taking electrical recordings on
people’s scalps.This article was first published at newswise.com.