Experts have hailed the “beginning of the end” in the search for effective Alzheimer’s treatments after a new drug reduced memory decline among patients with early stages of the disease.
Lecanemab, which is designed to target and clear amyloid – one of the proteins that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s – was found to slow decline in patients’ memory and thinking.
The phase three clinical trial results have been reported by Eisai, a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company that has partnered with US biotech firm Biogen to develop lecanemab.
Eisai reported initial results in September from a trial on 1,795 participants with early Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists found that after 18 months the drug slowed the disease progression by 27% compared with patients taking the placebo.
Full results from the study have since been published in The New England Journal of Medicine, with experts hailing it as long-awaited proof that Alzheimer’s disease can be treated.
“This trial is an important first step, and I truly believe it represents the beginning of the end,” said Professor John Hardy, group leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London.
“The amyloid theory has been around for 30 years so this has been a long time coming. It’s fantastic to receive this confirmation that we’ve been on the right track all along, as these results convincingly demonstrate, for the first time, the link between removing amyloid and slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The first step is the hardest, and we now know exactly what we need to do to develop effective drugs. It’s exciting to think that future work will build on this, and we will soon have life-changing treatments to tackle this disease.”
Prof Bart De Strooper, director at the institute, added: “The overall conclusion is extremely positive. This trial proves that Alzheimer’s disease can be treated.”