Experiments on mice have found that a drug used to treat cancer can very quickly remove build up of beta-amyloid peptides in the brain, known to cause Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be associated with a build up of plaque-like substances that brings on the memory problems. The build-up is thought to underlie the abnormal brain activity that leads to memory problems, and also kick-starts a chemical domino effect that ultimately leads neurons dying out.

According to Paige Cramer at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, the build-up of beta-amyloid peptides can be broken up using bexarotene, an anti-cancer drug. In lab mice the drug was able to break up the build-up in just a few days!

“The research by scientists in the United States is in its early stages but could offer the prospect of an effective therapy for an illness which causes so much distress to millions of sufferers and their families across the world.” Although it has not be tried on human brains, as of yet, this study is important and worth following.

Cramer reasoned that a healthy brain can normally clear beta-amyloid deposits through a process encouraged by a substance called apolipoprotein E (ApoE). ApoE is activated, in part, by a receptor called RXR –bexarotene enhances the action of RXR.

When mice with Alzheimer’s-like brain damage were given the drug bexarotene orally they were able to clear more than half of the beta-amyloid peptides from the brain within 72 hours. With the plaque gone, a rapid reversal of social and cognitive decline.

Cramer is hopeful she can begin phase 1 of the clinical trials within the next few months. “We believe that because bexarotene is approved [for use in humans in cancer treatment], we will be able to transition much more quickly from basic research to the clinic,” she says.

Other researchers urge people to be cautious, that while encouraging, it does not mean that if the drug works well on mice it will also react the same on humans. Many drugs that have shown promising results in mice fail to have similar effects in humans.

“The drug development world is littered with drugs that seemed to work on transgenic mice, but didn’t work on people,” says Derek Hill at University College London. “A program of clinical trials is needed to assess whether these potentially promising results translate into an effect on the human disease.”

David Allsop, a neuroscientist at the University of Lancaster, UK, agrees. “It looks promising in the mouse model, but in recent years these types of experiments in mice have not translated well into humans, and so it is too early to get excited about the prospect of an effective therapy for Alzheimer’s disease,” he says



About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



NewScience – Cancer drug reverses Alzheimer’s in Mice: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21459-cancer-drug-reverses-alzheimers-in-mice.html