Lecanemab: New Alzheimer’s drug slows decline in memory – fuelling hope doctors will one day cure dementia | Science & Tech News

Doctors have hailed a “new era” of medicine after a study showed for the first time a drug could slow the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Results from the clinical trial also revealed that the drug lecanemab removed clumps of proteins called amyloid – thought to be the main cause of the most common form of dementia – from patients’ brains.

Data released at a conference in San Francisco has scientists extremely optimistic, many of whom have spent decades trying to understand what causes the disease and find a cure. treatment.

Rob Howard, professor of senile psychiatry at University College London, said the results were “wonderful and hopeful” – adding: “We’ve finally gained some momentum towards This most terrible and terrifying disease and years of research and investment have finally paid off.

“That’s important and historic. This should encourage genuine optimism that dementia can be beaten and even cured one day.”

The drugmakers announced the top results in a news release in early fall, but many doctors didn’t celebrate until the full results were announced at the Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials conference.

They showed that lecanemab slowed the decline in memory and mental agility by 27% in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease.

A new drug has been found to reduce cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients

‘Doctors are very optimistic’

Crucially, the drug removed so much amyloid protein that patients wouldn’t have enough evidence of Alzheimer’s disease on their brain scans to actually qualify for the trial.

Research shows that the drug only begins to have a clinical effect when amyloid drops to low levels in the brain.

Results after 12 months of treatment showed it was ineffective – but after 18 months, the effect was significant.

Doctors are optimistic that continued treatment will bring even better results.

Professor Nick Fox, director of the Center for Dementia Research at University College London, said: “It confirms a new era of Alzheimer’s regulation, one that emerged after more than 20 years of work. hard work of a lot of people, with a lot of people. disappointment along the way.”

Lecanemab is not a cure-all. But even slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease would be a game changer, delaying the need for specialist care and allowing people to spend more time with their families.

However, the drug has side effects.

One in eight patients taking lecanemab developed brain swelling and other changes, possibly as a result of the removal of amyloid protein. But most only found evidence of problems on brain scans. Less than one in 30 people have actual symptoms such as headaches or confusion.

Some patients experienced bleeding in the brain, although the mortality rate among those treated was not higher than in those given the dummy drug.

However, it highlights the need for careful monitoring of those undergoing treatment.

Professor Fox said: “Any risk is obviously important, but I believe many of my patients would be very willing to take such a risk.


‘Big challenge for the NHS’

Doctors warn that lecanemab will be a major challenge for the NHS, not least because the drug is given intravenously every two weeks.

Most Alzheimer’s patients are now diagnosed when they have moderate symptoms – too late to treat with lecanemab. And only 1% had a confirmed diagnosis by brain scan or lumbar puncture, biopsy of their spinal fluid.

Susan Kohlhaas, research director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s safe to say the NHS is not ready for a new era in dementia treatment.

“We estimate that unless there are drastic changes in how people access specialist diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease, only 2% of people who qualify for drugs like lecanemab will be able to access them.” they.”

Until now, only drugs have been able to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. But if lecanemab is approved for use on the NHS, a delay in treatment will lead to brain cell death and progressive disease.

Professor John Hardy, from Dementia Research UK UK in London said the drug “has been around for a long time”.

He added: “I truly believe it represents the beginning of the end.

“The first step was the hardest, and now we know exactly what we need to do to develop effective drugs. It’s exciting to think that future work will build on this and we’ll have it soon. life-changing treatments to tackle this disease.”


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