Another setback in the lengthy and difficult process of trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease was the failure of a widely monitored clinical study of a prospective Alzheimer’s treatment to prevent or reduce the decrease in cognitive function.
The clinical experiment lasted for 10 years and was the first time that persons who were genetically predisposed to acquire the condition but who had no symptoms at the time were given a medicine with the intention of halting or delaying the deterioration of their health. The persons who took part in the study were members of an extended family in Colombia consisting of 6,000 people. Of them, around 1,200 had a genetic mutation that makes it almost certain that they would get Alzheimer’s disease between the ages of 40 and 50.
The sickness has swiftly taken away the capacity of many members of the family to hold down a job, to speak with others, and to carry out other fundamental activities. These family members reside in Medelln and in isolated mountain communities. People often pass away in their 60s.
Crenezumab is a medicine that was developed by Genentech, which is a member of the Roche Group. During the study, 169 persons who had the mutation were given either a placebo or the treatment. Another 83 persons who did not have the mutation were given the placebo as a means of concealing the identity of those who were at a high risk of developing the condition, which carries a significant social stigma in the communities in which they live.
The researchers who were in charge of the trial had high hopes that if they gave participants a drug several years before the onset of memory and thinking issues, they might be able to stave off the disease and gain important insights that could be applied to the treatment of the more common form of Alzheimer’s disease, which is not caused by a single genetic mutation.
The findings represent yet another setback for treatment development that targets amyloid, a critical protein in Alzheimer’s disease that is responsible for the formation of sticky plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Studies that have been going on for years with a variety of medications that target amyloid at different stages of the illness have been unsuccessful. In 2019, Roche decided to stop two more clinical trials of crenezumab, which is a monoclonal antibody, in persons who were in the early stages of the more typical Alzheimer’s disease. The company said that it was doubtful that the tests would demonstrate any effect.
Some of the data did suggest that patients receiving crenezumab fared better than those receiving the placebo, but the differences were not statistically significant, according to Dr. Pierre Tariot, the director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and the leader of the Colombian research. Tariot is also the leader of the research that was conducted in Colombia.
He also said that there were no issues with the drug’s safety, which is a significant discovery considering that numerous anti-amyloid medications, including Aduhelm, have caused some patients to have brain haemorrhage or edoema.
Dr. Francisco Lopera, a neurologist from Colombia and one of the key leaders of the study, started working with members of the family many decades ago and was instrumental in determining that the Alzheimer’s disease they suffered from was a hereditary variety. He added that the experiment had shown him that “prevention is the best approach of seeking for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, even if today we don’t have a positive outcome.” He said that this was his conclusion after participating in the trial.
Hernando, whose last name is being suppressed to protect his privacy, was among the first patients to engage in the experiment, according to the participant’s wife, Maria Areiza of Medelln. Areiza claimed that her husband was one of the first patients to enrol in the trial. Hernando, who was 45 years old and worked as a technician repairing telephone wires, first noticed indications of cognitive deterioration around eight years ago. Since that time, he has developed Alzheimer’s disease, yet he is still able to carry on conversations. His family had high hopes that he would improve throughout the trial due to the fact that his decline has been very moderate.