A new drug which has shown the ability to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease has been hailed ‘momentous’ by experts. The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of the breakthrough research which involved a clinical trial using the drug Lecanemab to help tackle the disease.
The New England Journal of Medicines published the results of the clinical trial on Tuesday (November 29), and have been called a ‘breakthrough’ by professionals. Alzheimer’s Research UK said the findings were "momentous". One of the world’s leading researchers behind the whole idea of targeting amyloid 30 years ago, Prof John Hardy, said it was "historic" and shows that a new era of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s is possible.
The drug in question, Lecanemab works by attacking the sticky gunge - called beta-amyloid - that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Lecanemab is an antibody-like that the body makes to fight viruses or bacteria - that has been engineered to tell the immune system to clear amyloid from the brain. And Amyloid is a protein that clumps together in the spaces between neurons in the brain and forms distinctive plaques that are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
The large-scale trial involved 1,795 volunteers with early-stage Alzheimer’s. Infusions of Lecanemab were given every fortnight for 18 months. And although the drug showed that the disease slowed by around a quarter over the course of the 18 months of treatment, high risks are involved.
Participants’ brain scans showed that there is a risk of brain bleeds and brain swelling when using Lecanemab, and overall, 7% of participants given the drug had to stop because of side effects. In addition, the drug will only work in the early stages of the disease, and only a small effect and its impact on people’s daily lives is debated.
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was a "modest effect... but it gives us a little bit of a foothold" and the next generation of drugs would be better. Prof Spires-Jones added: “I’m very excited we’re on the cusp of understanding enough to get a hold of the problem and we should have something that will make a bigger difference in a decade or so."
A total of 1795 participants were enrolled, with 898 assigned to receive Lecanemab and 897 to receive a placebo.