It is still too early to express excessive hope, but a drug project to combat Alzheimer’s disease has recorded promising results that may constitute significant progress amid the faltering efforts made nearly 20 years ago in search of a treatment for the disease.
“These results are particularly encouraging and set a precedent on more than one level,” said the head of the start-up company AC Immune, which is developing a treatment against Alzheimer’s with a branch of the Swiss giant pharmaceutical group “Roche”.
The two groups are evaluating the effectiveness of their findings, having announced at the end of August positive preliminary results that have yet to be published in detail and independently reviewed.
And if the announcement is interesting, it is because the molecule “cimurinmap” in question follows a thread that has rarely been investigated in the context of the search for a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, an area in which failed attempts have been successive for nearly twenty years.
The work of this molecule is focused on eliminating plaques formed by some proteins known as “amyloid beta” in the brain of sufferers, and it is one of the main factors of Alzheimer’s disease as it compresses nerve cells.
But this thread of research has scarcely yielded results so far, with the exception of a treatment developed by the Biogen company, which specializes in the treatment of neurological diseases, and authorized by the US health authorities this year, without there being a consensus about its therapeutic benefit.
For several years, the interest of many laboratories has focused on treating the second factor that causes Alzheimer’s disease, which is the abnormal behavior of other proteins known as “tau” proteins found in nerve cells, where they clump in Alzheimer’s patients to lead to cell death.
This treatment was given for about a year to patients with a relatively advanced case of Alzheimer’s disease. At the end of the stage, both groups reported that the cognitive decline of those who received the treatment was about half less than that of those who received a placebo.
It is the first time such a positive result has been announced for a treatment project targeting the “tau” protein, after a series of failed experiments, including another project by the Biogen Group this year.
But neurobiologist Luc Pouillet, who specializes in diseases associated with tau proteins, commented: “It is necessary to be very careful, there is clearly a media side, a desire to make a pretentious advertisement” although “there may be something” positive.
The research is still just an early phase II trial and involves only a limited number of patients. To confirm the effects of treatment, it is necessary to move to the third stage, with the possibility of testing thousands of people.
Boye explains his reservations that many projects focused on “amyloid-beta” proteins gave good results in the second stage, before disappointing in the next stage.
But the main reason for his reservation is that the results of the drug “cimurinmap” remain mixed. Cognitive tests are better in patients who receive the drug, but there is a discrepancy in behavior in real life, or what is known as functional impairment.