May 4, 2009 -- Question: What types of clinical trials are ongoing for Alzheimer's disease treatment, and should I be taking part in them?
Answer: There are numerous clinical trials going on for people with Alzheimer's disease. And the drugs and interventions that are tested in these clinical trials are really quite diverse. So there are therapies under study that relate to neurotransmitters in the brain -- chemicals that are involved in communication between cells in the brain. The currently approved therapies were all based on neurotransmitter strategies, and there's at least a dozen other treatments under development that affect different neurotransmitters or that affect the same ones in a different way. So that's one whole category of treatment.
There are treatments that relate to a protein called amyloid. Amyloid builds up in senile plaques in the brain and there are multiple different treatments with multiple different mechanisms that might help to prevent or reduce the amyloid in the brain. There are treatments that help to protect brain cells from dying; we classify those as neuron protective treatments, or neurotrophic treatments.
There are treatments that help destabilize the architecture of the individual brain cells by locking the formation of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. That's another hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. There are even a whole set of therapies that are based upon studies of populations in which we've noticed that some people are more prone to developing Alzheimer's than others. And if you notice that, you can study the differences between those populations and hypothesize some additional treatments such as treatments for diabetes, which might have a use in Alzheimer's disease.
So there are several dozen such therapies. It's really an individual decision as to whether a person should participate in research or not. It's completely optional and it's up to the patient and family, but it is something that people should consider in order to maximize their chance of benefit and also to help solve the problems related to this disease.