* Phase I study could pave way for Alzheimer's treatment
* Theory behind drug yet to be proven
Oct 10 An experimental drug being developed by
Roche Holding AG removed amyloid plaques from the
brains of Alzheimer's disease patients in a small early-stage
study, according to data published in the Archives of
Neurology, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.
Many researchers suspect the build-up of such plaques may
be a cause of the memory robbing disease, although that theory
has yet to be definitively proved.
The next step will be to investigate whether removal of
brain amyloid translates into clinical benefit for patients at
doses of the experimental drug, gantenerumab, that are well
tolerated and safe, Roche said.
Gantenerumab, a biotech drug designed to bind to amyloid
plaques in the brain and remove them, is being targeted at the
early stages of Alzheimer's with the hope it can slow
progression of the disease while patients are still able to
The Phase I study of 16 Alzheimer's patients tested
gantenerumab at two doses against a placebo over six months of
The Roche drug led to a dose-dependent reduction of brain
amyloid, while amyloid load increased in patients receiving a
placebo, the company said.
Much larger trials and further study will be needed to
fully understand just how gantenerumab works and whether it can
stave off Alzheimer's disease.
"These results and especially the rapidity of the effects
observed on amyloid removal are very encouraging and pave the
way for the development of a novel treatment for Alzheimer's
disease," Luca Santarelli, head of Roche's global neuroscience
disease division, said in a statement.
Most companies working to develop Alzheimer's treatments
are focused on the disease in its later, more debilitating stages. Roche is approaching the disease far earlier.
"We know amyloid accumulates for 15 years before dementia,
so why should you wait to remove it," Santarelli told Reuters
in an interview earlier this year.
Early, or prodromal, Alzheimer's disease is a condition in
which a person's memory loss is worse than can be expected by
the normal aging process, while their ability to engage in
daily activities is not affected to the extent that dementia
would be diagnosed.
Alzheimer's disease is estimated to affect 25 million
people around the world, with the number of diagnosed cases
expected to rise dramatically with the aging of the enormous
baby boom generation.
It is expected that the illness, which robs memory and
ability to function, will affect about 63 million people by
2030, and 114 million by 2050 worldwide, according to forecasts
cited by Roche.