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New drug could transform treatment of Alzheimer's

University Of Bristol : 30 April, 2007  (Technical Article)
Research conducted by Professor Gordon Wilcock of the University of Bristol, with colleagues in the UK and Canada, could result in one of the most exciting advances in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, if current results are confirmed by Phase 3 trials.
The research was unveiled at the first Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia in Washington D.C., which highlighted a number of innovative treatment possibilities.

While most existing Alzheimer's drugs treat the symptoms of the disease, the new drug aims to stop or slow down the death of cells (a process known as 'disease modification').

The drug targets beta amyloid, an abnormal brain protein thought to have an important role in Alzheimer's disease. This abnormal protein collects into sticky bundles in the brain called plaques. Investigators studying Alzheimer's disease continue to study whether it is the beta amyloid itself, some further modified form of the abnormal protein, or the plaques that cause the death of brain cells in Alzheimer's.

Professor Wilcock, Head of the Bristol Dementia Research Group and his colleagues, in conjunction with Myriad Pharmaceuticals, the trial sponsor, conducted the first multi-centre, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of MPC-7869 in people.

MPC-7869 ((R)-flurbiprofen) is a single enantiomer of flurbiprofen, which has been shown to lower brain levels of a toxic form of beta amyloid (A42) in a model of Alzheimer's.

Participants in the 12-month trial received twice daily doses of either 400 mg or 800 mg of drug, or placebo.

When results for all 207 participants were considered as a whole, MPC-7869 did not help individuals with mild or moderate Alzheimer's disease. However, when results for 128 participants with mild Alzheimer's were analysed separately, the researchers did report some encouraging signs.

Participants with mild Alzheimer's who were taking the highest dose of MPC-7869 showed a tendency to do better than those receiving the placebo on tests of memory and thinking skills, ability to carry out daily activities, and overall function.

Study results were further subdivided to focus on participants with mild Alzheimer's taking the highest dose who also developed high levels of the drug in their bloodstream. That group experienced a statistically significant benefit in their ability to carry out daily activities and their overall function, but less effect on measures of memory and thinking skills.

(R)-flurbiprofen is the form of flurbiprofen that seems to have the greatest impact on beta-amyloid but has little or no anti-inflammatory effect.

Professor Wilcock said: 'These results are very promising and we hope they will be confirmed by Phase 3 trials, thus opening an exciting new chapter in the way this debilitating disease is treated.'
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