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Emerging Research on Investigational New Drugs

As of right now, there are no drugs that prevent Alzheimer’s disease. There are various studies and clinical trials investigating potential medications for Alzheimer’s disease, including drugs that might help prevent the disease or stop the progression. These investigative studies are important because it’s only through these types of studies that medicine is able to discover groundbreaking treatments. That said, even if a drug shows promise, it often takes time before it can be used in a general treatment setting. Information about ongoing clinical trials can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov.

Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) study

The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s study (or A4 study) focuses on looking at a new drug called an anti-amyloid antibody (solanezumab), and whether it can slow memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease.1 Amyloid is a protein that is naturally produced in the brain. In older individuals, this can accumulate and form amyloid plaques, which are hypothesized to potentially play a role in Alzheimer’s disease-related memory loss.1 The antibody being studied would potentially reduce the amount of amyloid being produced, and possibly help to slow down the associated memory loss.

This study is for older individuals between the ages of 65-85 who do not have Alzheimer’s disease, but may be at risk for memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease. Participants have normal thinking and memory function, but have evidence of amyloid plaques in their brain as seen on a PET scan.1 Each person will either get a placebo drug or the investigational drug, and have monthly visits over four and a half years, the length of the study.

Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS)

The Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) is an agreement between the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) that focuses on treatments for cognitive and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. ADCS helps to facilitate the study of and testing of new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.2 The ADCS has ongoing studies to determine whether physical exercise can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, studies testing whether new experimental drugs can slow disease progression, the effects of reducing blood pressure on symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and the effects of vitamins on cognitive symptoms.

Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trial

The aim of this study, also referred to as DIAN-TU, is to look at the safety and efficacy of investigational medications in participants who have a genetic mutation in APP, presenilin 1, or presenilin 2 that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is to see if antibodies to amyloid, gantenerumab, and solanezumab, prevent, slow, or reverse the rate of disease progression.3 This is the world’s first prevention trial for at-risk families who have Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s disease.4 The participants either get an active drug or placebo.

Challenges to developing new drugs

It is now accepted that changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease occur in the brain long before any signs or symptoms actually appear. This is called preclinical Alzheimer’s disease and can last for years, or even decades.5 In clinical trials, this is often seen on imaging tests, but this is mainly in research settings only and not the general treatment setting. One challenge is addressing these changes before they’re even able to be seen on imaging studies – how can they be prevented altogether? This is not yet known, but is one of the areas of study and consideration.

Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: June 2019
  1. The A4 Study. What Is the A4 Study? 2019. https://a4study.org/about/ Accessed April 11, 2019.
  2. UC San Diego School of Medicine: Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study. About Us. 2017. http://www.adcs.org/about-us/ Accessed April 12, 2019.
  3. National Institutes of Health. Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trial: An Opportunity To Prevent Dementia. A Study of Potential Disease Modifying Treatments in Individuals at Risk for or With a Type of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Caused by a Genetic Mutation (DIAN-TU). 2019. https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT01760005 Accessed April 16, 2019.
  4. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network. Clinical Trial. 2019. https://dian.wustl.edu/our-research/clinical-trial/ Accessed April 16, 2019.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s Stages: How The Disease Progresses. 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers-stages/art-20048448 Accessed April 16, 2019.