New Drugs May Be Able to Treat Alzheimer’s Before It Starts

Few effective treatments are available for patients with mid-level or late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
So researchers are increasingly looking at ways to fight the brain disease before symptoms even become apparent.
That’s why people with known risk factors for Alzheimer’s — but no signs of cognitive impairment — are being recruited for a pair of studies called the Generation Program.
“There are relatively few studies looking at people without symptoms, even though the trend is already toward doing drug interventions earlier and earlier,” Dr. Pierre Tariot, director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona, told Healthline.
Banner Alzheimer’s Institute researchers want to test the effectiveness of two types of anti-Alzheimer’s medications on individuals ages 60 to 75 who carry the APOE4 gene, a biomarker for increased risk of the disease.
“This is one of just two studies looking at risk based on age and genetic vulnerability,” noted Tariot.
Voluntary participants in the program will be screened for the presence of APOE4 through a registry called GeneMatch.
Researchers will need to screen approximately 200,000 people in order to identify the 3,400 people with the APOE4 gene required for the study, Tariot said.
The research involves experimental drugs from pharmaceutical companies Novartis and Amgen.
The early intervention is aimed at preventing the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain — a known symptom of Alzheimer’s.
One study will focus on people with two copies of the APOE4 gene.
The other will look at those who carry either two copies of the gene or one copy plus some evidence (as seen via brain scans) that amyloid plaques are starting to form.
The drugs tested will include an injected medication that prompts an immune response against amyloid creation and an oral antiamyloid drug that targets the pathological variant of the plaques.