The UK papers are bubbling with speculation about the prospects of bapineuzumab, an experimental therapeutic vaccine now in late-stage trials as a treatment for Alzheimer's. The therapy, which targets beta amyloid, the brain plaque found in victims of the disease, may be available in a couple of years, reports the Daily Mail.
Researchers for J&J and Elan have been studying the drug's effects in 10,000 patients. And clinicians are eager to see if new diagnostic standards for the drug would make it possible to start treatment at an early stage of the disease--increasing the chances of delaying or preventing the memory-wasting ailment.
"Hopefully the vaccine will make a big difference to Alzheimer's treatment. If we can give it early--before major brain impairment is seen--it may have an important part to play," says Dr. David Wilkinson, from Southampton University's Memory Assessment and Research Centre. "If it can clear amyloid plaques from the brain and we can give it very early in the disease process, it may prevent some of the damage.'
What the reports don't say, though, is that the drug developers revealed a year ago that they would significantly delay the delivery of their final data on bapineuzumab in order to greatly expand their study, making it possible to gain results from a much bigger pool of patients.
Adding to the complexity of the study and the prospects for the vaccine is the ongoing discussion about what causes the disease. While amyloid remains a prime suspect, there has been much talk about the development of the toxic protein and the extent to which it causes the disease. But if the efficacy data comes in positive, the lack of any significant treatment for Alzheimer's could quickly pave the way to a megablockbuster approval.
- here's the story from the Daily Mail
Special Report: Making sense of the Alzheimer's drug pipeline