3 experimental drugs are part of a fascinating genetic study on how to prevent Alzheimer's. NBC's chief science correspondent Robert Bazell investigates.
Anchorman: The urgent need for better treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia was highlighted this past week with a report that said dementia costs this country as much as $215 billion a year. Well, now there is a fascinating study going on involving some new drugs that might prevent Alzheimer's. We get details tonight from NBC's Chief Science Correspondent, Robert Bazell.
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Family member: It is an exciting time. it is very exciting, it is also very scary.
Robert Bazell: Each member of these families has a 50%-50% chance of getting a rare genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer's in the mid 40s, 50s and 60s. Now, an enormous mile post-- scientists have chosen three drugs that could stop some of them from having a certain future of Alzheimer's disease.
Family member: There is hope that we've got something to move forward on.
Robert Bazell: In the drug trials which started already, family members are receiving either active drugs or placebo. Based on brian scans and other biomarkers, researchers will decide which drugs look best and continue with those to see if they can prevent Alzheimer's or at least slow the progression.
The three drugs target a protein that many scientists believe causes Alzheimer's. not just in families with a rare mutation, but also in the common form that strikes later in life. Similar drugs have failed to halt alzheimer's. But scientists now believe they gave them too late. From studying families, they've learned the brain decay of Alzheimer's begins decades before symptoms. This study is not waiting for symptoms.
In a family that has an early onset, say at 35 years, they can be as young as 20 and still enroll in this.
Robert Bazell: You could be giving drugs to people as young as 20.
Randall Batemen: Yes.
John Morris: All three of these individuals carry a gene mutation.
Robert Bazell: Scientists see this as their best shot yet.
John Morris: We have a good chance to prevent brain cells from dying and hopefully preventing the onset of alzheimer's dementia.
Robert Bazell: The scientists hope to see results within two or three years. Robert Bazell, NBC News, St. Louis.
The 3 drugs are:
- Ely Lilly's LY2886721
- Hoffman-La Roche's Gantenerumab
- Ely Lilly's Solanezumab