Eli Lilly Alzheimer's study shows combo therapy clears more amyloid in mice

Scientists at drug giant Eli Lilly ($LLY) have found that a combination therapy may be more effective at removing clumps of amyloid-β protein--widely thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease--than the use of one therapy in mice.

The results reflect Lilly's continued interest in the Alzheimer's field despite its disastrous overall failure rate, not to mention the fact that Lilly's own solanezumab flopped in a Phase III clinical trial. Lilly isn't giving up on solanezumab though, and the company has launched a new study to test the drug in early-stage Alzheimer's patients.

"This nonclinical study demonstrates that by simultaneously targeting two different steps in the beta-amyloid disease process, researchers can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease pathology in genetically engineered mice," said Ron DeMattos, research fellow in the Neuroscience Division at Eli Lilly, in a statement. "These results may have a significant impact on the future of Alzheimer's disease therapies as they support the clinical rationale for using future testing of combination therapy against the beta-amyloid protein in the clinical practice."

In the study, mice with a rodent form of Alzheimer's were given a amyloid-β antibody N3pG and β-secretase inhibitor BACE (LY2811376). Amyloid-β antibodies, which target the removal of the plaque-causing protein, and β-secretase inhibitors, which are designed to block the body's ability to produce amyloid-β, are two investigational therapies currently in development.

When used on their own, the β-secretase inhibitor and the amyloid-β antibody each removed about 50% of the clumps of amyloid-β protein. When the two therapies were combined, 86% of the mice's clumps were eliminated. The study was presented July 13 at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Both types of compounds believed to work through these mechanisms have been studied in clinical trials on their own, though they haven't been successful. Some scientists believe that a combination approach would be more effective at removing disease-causing amyloid proteins.

- read the press release