There have been many clinical trials to treat Alzheimer's disease. Now there’s one to help prevent it.
Peter Bristol, 70, is getting an infusion he hopes, over time, will prevent memory loss. This retired horticulturist is already starting to forget things.
“The plant names, friends’ names,” said Bristol.
He's worried because his mother had Alzheimer's, so does his brother. Although Bristol's memory testing turned out to be normal, a PET scan showed a buildup of amyloid protein, often a precursor to Alzheimer's. That's when he learned about a new prevention trial.
“This is really a landmark study because it opens a new chapter in the fight against Alzheimer's and it puts the prevention of Alzheimer's on par with the prevention of the other major diseases like heart disease and cancer," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, a memory and aging specialist.
To qualify, you need to be between the ages of 65 and 85.
"No significant memory complaints,” said Dr. Salloway. “We all have memory complaints, but people are still functioning well. It's not interfering with their day to day life."
Peter qualified, so every month for three years, he'll be infused with a medication. It's about an hour.
"It has a funny name," said Dr. Salloway. "It's called solanezumab and that's a targeted treatment against the amyloid plaques that build up in Alzheimer's."
The drug is not new. It's already been tested with some success in people with mild Alzheimer's.
"So we think that testing it earlier in people who don't have any significant symptoms yet may be even more beneficial,” said Dr. Salloway.
This is a double-blind placebo study, which means Bristol has a 50-50 chance he's getting the actual medication. He's fine with that. As a scientist, he's results oriented.
"If there is a therapy out there, if there can be some kind of a protectant - who's going to benefit?" said Bristol. "Not necessarily me so much, but my children and my grandchildren."
This is a team effort - a partnership between the National Institutes of Health, Eli Lilly, the maker of this experimental drug, and it's being coordinated by the Azheimer's Disease Cooperative Study.
Bristol is the first to take part in this study, which is taking place at 60 sites around the world, including the University of Washington.