The Obama administration wants the U.S. to figure out how to effectively treat and even prevent Alzheimer's disease by 2025, arguably a medical equivalent of President John F. Kennedy's challenge to America to send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s.
Of course, we eventually sent a number of men to the moon. But the question remains: Can we, in 13 years, figure out how to successfully treat and better manage patients with Alzheimer's, which robs millions of patients of their memories and identities? Is a cure possible within that time frame?
The goal is certainly ambitious, but the details on how to get there are still being filled in. The Associated Press reports that the government convened a two-day meeting of experts on Jan. 17 and 18 to advise the government on how to craft the fine points of its plan, which is designed to address both the medical and social challenges of Alzheimer's. These range from timely diagnosis and effective treatment to supporting family members as they care for Alzheimer's patients.
Getting there could be difficult. Right now, as the AP notes, existing treatments ease some symptoms of dementia, but only temporarily. And companies are struggling to find treatments that work. Pfizer ($PFE), for example, recently wrote off its $725 million development pact with Medivation ($MDVN) after its drug Dimebon failed to generate significant improvement for Alzheimer's patients in Phase III trials. AstraZeneca ($AZN), by contrast, is plowing ahead with its Targacept ($TGRT) partnership with an experimental Alzheimer's drug advancing into midstage trials.
Some of the more promising advances have been in the super-early preclinical stage and offer indirect promise. Recent research has found that exercise might help mitigate the risk of getting the disease. Another discovery involved using nanoparticles to penetrate the blood-brain barrier in fruit flies' brains, with a future goal of using the same technology to treat Alzheimer's patients. But it is a long way to go from fruit flies to people.
- here's the AP story
Pfizer writes off $725M Dimebon pact after final Phase III failure
Targacept buoyed by AZ's commitment to Alzheimer's program
Novel nanoparticles penetrate fruit flies' brains; people's may be next