Tests have found that a new drug called Lecanemab can potentially be used as a treatment for the Alzheimer's disease.
Results from the trials revealed that the drug lecanemab cleared clumps of a protein called amyloid which is the key cause of the most common form of dementia.
Scientists, who have spent decades trying to understand what leads to Alzheimer's and finding its treatment, have expressed optimism.
Researchers said that in persons with early Alzheimer's disease, lecanemab reduced brain amyloid levels and was associated with less decline on clinical measures of cognition and function that placebo at 18 months, but associated with adverse events. They shared that longer trials are warranted to determine the efficacy and safety of lecanemab in early Alzheimer's disease.
The Alzheimer's Association welcomed the results. It believes lecanemab will provide patients more time to participate in daily life and live independently. "It could mean many months more of recognizing their spouse, children and grandchildren. Treatments that deliver tangible benefits of those living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer's and early Alzheimer's dementia are as valuable as treatments that extend the lives of those with other terminal diseases," it said.
Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, applauded the results saying they were wonderful and hope-filled. "At long last we have gained some traction on this most terrible and feared disease and the years of research and investment have finally paid off. It feels momentous and historic." Howard says this will encourage real optimism that dementia can be beaten and one day even cured.
Drug Reduces Amyloid to Low Levels
The latest study highlights that lecanemab only starts to have a clinical effect once amyloid is reduced to low levels in the brain. Results after 12 months of treatment, shows that it was ineffective but after 18 months, the effect was quite significant. Researchers said 900 people given the drug over 18 months recorded brain scores 27 percent higher. Professor Howard hailed lecanemab as the first drug that's been shown to not only remove the build-up of protein, but to have a significant impact on cognitive decline.
Side Effects Cannot Be Ignored
However, lecanemab's side effects cannot be ignored. This drug is associated with side effects called amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA). These are abnormalities that show up in MRI imaging and can signal bleeding in the brain or swelling.
There have been two potential treatment-related deaths in the study. The neuropathologist who conducted the autopsy on the second deceased patient said there is zero doubt that this a treatment-caused illness and death. The patient suffered a stroke. The first death, as per the autopsy report, was cardiopulmonary related. Japanese drug firm Eisai said the two deaths in the lecanemab arm occurred in the ongoing open-label extension study and both were associated with "significant comorbidities and risk factors" such as the use of blood thinners. The pharma company highlighted that the deaths cannot be attributed to lecanemab.