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New Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise 82

An anonymous reader writes "The Herald Sun is reporting that researchers may have some progress to report on the Alzheimer's front. A new drug, called PBT2, was developed by a Melbourne-based biotech firm that has been showing some promising results. From the article: 'Early clinical testing has confirmed the drug is fast-acting. Levels of amyloid dropped by 60 per cent within 24 hours of a single dose. It found also that PBT2 suppresses the impairment of memory function. More human studies begin in Sweden next month and Australians will join a major international trial of the drug next year.'"
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New Alzheimer's Drug Shows Promise

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  • Sweet (Score:3, Funny)

    by fredistheking ( 464407 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:52AM (#15768166)
    Now I can have photographic memory.

    • Re:Sweet (Score:3, Funny)

      by Umbral Blot ( 737704 )
      Unfortunately your extended lifespan due to other drugs causes your photographic memory to fill all your available space with crap, and you end up with Alzheimer's for a different reason.
      • See, I just don't worry about these medical type things. It seems to me that every possible problem I'll have when I'm old will be fixed (and in pill form!), from being blind and deaf to having no memory and a broken spine. If the government would hurry up and get those stem cells going, I won't have to worry about my parents either.
    • Re:Sweet (Score:3, Funny)

      by wootest ( 694923 )
      You already do. You just keep the lens cap on.
  • Heh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 24, 2006 @03:56AM (#15768171)
    "The Herald Sun is reporting that researchers may have some progress to report on the Alzheimer's front. Maybe. They can't exactly remember one way or the other..."
  • catch-22 (Score:5, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:00AM (#15768179) Homepage
    The Herald Sun is reporting that researchers may have some progress to report on the Alzheimer's front. A new drug, called PBT2, was developed by a Melbourne-based biotech firm that has been showing some promising results.

    Fantastic. Now they just have to remember to take it.
    • What an awful person you are, having fun at the expense of Alzheimer's patients. Consider youself lucky they so easily forgive and forget.
  • ... if they name it something that doesn't look like the written version of blowing a raspberry. "OK, Grandma, it's time to take your Pbbbbbbbbt!"
  • by simong_oz ( 321118 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:21AM (#15768208) Journal
    From the article: 'Early clinical testing has confirmed the drug is fast-acting. Levels of amyloid dropped by 60 per cent within 24 hours of a single dose. It found also that PBT2 suppresses the impairment of memory function.

    The article seems to be wrong - press releases on the Prana Biotechnology website indicate these results are from studies in mice.

    More human studies begin in Sweden next month and Australians will join a major international trial of the drug next year.

    If the data is from mice, then the above clinical trial is presumably a phase I clinical trial, which is designed to show safety and not efficacy. It could be a while before human data is available.

    Of course, none of this will stop investors believing the article ;-)
  • I have heard linkages between alzheimers and "mad cow disease", I wonder if this drug will be able to fix both problems. I can finally start eating all cows indiscriminately!!!
    • AFAIK BSE/The mad cow disease is only connected to the Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease.

      Or is CJD related to Alzheimer?
      • I don't know whether or not alzheimer's is related to CJD, but what we call BSE when a cow has it becomes CJD when a human catches it (or more correctly, new variant CJD).
    • Ok, so to be more specific, I honestly do not know where I heard of the link, but some symptoms between Alzheimers and Mad Cow Disease are very similar. Incubation periods are similar, and they are both linked to a protein that uses some unknown method to attack the brain.

      Part of the problem with solving Alzheimers was probably the fact that it was protein and enzyme based, I would imagine that just making some steps forward here COULD be applicable to Mad Cow.

      Can't believe they modded me down to zero! Bu
      • No, the symptoms are not all that similar. For one, CJD kills within a few months after symptom onset. It may take a while for symptoms to appear, but once they do you're done with. On the other hand the clinical course of Alzheimer disease is gradual taking many years. Symptoms appear gradually over the years rather than all at once. And then there's the histologic changes that differ completely between the two diseases. In Alzheimer disease, you seen amyloid plaques and neuronal tangles. In CJD you see sp
        • So do we agree that they are exactly the same?
          • No. The pathologic processes and clinical course of the diseases differ significantly. CJD is infectious, has a long incubation time, has symptoms suddenly appearing followed by death within 6 months. Alzheimer disease has known genetic predispositions, has a long incubation time, has symptoms that appear gradually with death occurring usually years after initial symptoms. So no, they are not the same.
    • They're not linked per se, but they have a lot of symptom similarities, which makes scientists think that the molecular mechanism underlying both of them could be the same [bbc.co.uk].

      This means that a treatment for one, *might* give insights into treatments for the other, not that a drug will treat both. nvCJD (what BSE is in humans) and alzheimers are thought to be caused by buildups of different proteins, though they do have very similar structures.
    • Many cases that are called Alzheimer's are in fact CJD. Rather than looking for a drug to counteract the effects of an unnatural diet, why not do something radical and simply stop mistaking animals for food?
  • by Nocterro ( 648910 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:46AM (#15768245)
    If this drug is found to actually work, and proceeds to be available for general use within the next five years, it would be a major reversal of the trends we're seeing at the moment. I work in a nursing home designed and built in the 70's, when nursing homes tended to be the place you stayed briefly before dying. Now with our medical advances, together with the high level of day to day care, individually tailored diets etc, we're dealing with people who are living longer. This means we're now running into problems with alzheimers, excarberated by the cocktail of drugs administered. Effectively we're now running into trouble trying to keep people with high level dementia in unsuited facillities. The possibility of an effective treatment for alzheimers makes me wonder if we might be going to move back to the older situation, with lives limited by health again.
    • by montyzooooma ( 853414 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @05:49AM (#15768317)
      I was going to write that I didn't think Alzheimer's affected that big a proportion of the elderly but then I actually googled the numbers and apparently it affects 10% of the over 65s and 50% of the over 85s (found here: http://www.alz.org/maintainyourbrain/overview.asp [alz.org] )

      Those are actually pretty serious numbers and far higher than I thought.

    • by Psmylie ( 169236 ) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @11:04AM (#15769700) Homepage
      My father-in-law had this disease in the last few years of his life, and it was pretty horrible. I have no intention to slam nursing homes (you guys have one hell of a hard job to do) but most of them are just not set up to deal with Alzheimer's or dementia. Many we talked refused to admit patients with Alzheimer's, since the confusion and fear the disease causes can lead to anger and violence. I understand and sympathize with nursing home staff. But, when we were dealing with my father-in-law, it became very clear to me that we needed actual Alzheimer's wards where they could specialize in their care.

      For the most part (at least where I live) patients with Alzheimer's got shipped off to mental wards. That's where my father-in-law ended up for a while, before he became vegetative. He was convinced that he was in jail for something, and got angry because nobody would tell him why. He kept trying to get out, and pushed the orderlies when they tried to stop him. They ended up placing him in leather restraints (which, I understand, is NOT something they're supposed to do, especially long-term). We went to visit him one day and found him locked in a sweltering room with no air-conditioning or fans, strapped to a table, wearing nothing but an adult diaper, and screaming in rage and terror, because he didn't know why he was locked up.

      I used to make Alzheimer's jokes, before I actually knew someone who had it. I feel bad about that now. This is a terrible disease. I'll throw a huge party the day they actually come up with a cure for it.

      • The sad thing is that with proper building design, it's possible to make life much better for people with severe dementia. Many people react like your father-in-law because they don't understand why they're not allowed to leave. Another nursing home run by the same organisation I work for was built a few years ago with a specific dementia ward, and apparently it's much better for the residents. By most places where there have to be closed doors, they've eliminated much of the points for someone to focus on.
  • More info (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cicero382 ( 913621 ) <clancyj&tiscali,co,uk> on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:47AM (#15768246)
    It's interesting but not (yet) as significant as TFA makes out.

    These are studies on transgenic mice, so it's more a proof-of-concept rather than clinical trials which will be some way off - mostly due to bureaucracy.

    For those who want a quick *scientific-ish* summary:

    It is widely believed that a protein called Beta-Amyloid is reponsible synaptic dysfunction in Altzheimer's disease. Another variant (Alpha-Amyloid) also does horrible things to the body such as renal failure and constrictive pericarditis. This often happens as a result of certain auto-immune diseases (which is my speciality).

    These tests are based on the accidental discovery that a dysentry drug (PBT-1) has some effects on restoring some cognitive function in patients. The company pursuing this has created a drug which is more specifically targeted towards reducing levels of A-A. And... so far, so good. The mice show greatly reduced A-A levels and they perform better in mazes. I wish them all the best - Altzheimers is a horrible and frightening disease.

    For those who would like a fuller summary in non newspaper-speak, try http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?ne wsid=47696 [medicalnewstoday.com]
    • "Professor Bush also presented mechanistic findings showing that PBT2 blocks the copper-dependent formation of amyloid oligomers, considered by many to be the toxic chemical entity leading to brain damage in Alzheimer's disease."

      So, at 76 should I stop taking 1 mg of copper supplementation daily?
    • I am, by know means, knowledgable of such matters, but I do find them interesting nonetheless. A couple of things I've heard about degenerative brain diseases are:

      1) Maintaining an active mind and constantantly challenging your cognitive abilities can actually protect you from conditions like Alzheimer's.

      2) Nicotene can provide protection/relief from not only Alzheimer's but also Parkinson's and Schizophrenia.

      These are just things I've heard/read, but I don't know how good the source is, thus, I have no
    • According to their website, they started clinical trials of PBT2 [pranabio.com] on humans in March, 2005 in the Netherlands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:47AM (#15768247)
    Living through your parent's early onset (at 50 years) Alzheimer's really takes egde off any humour of this story. Personally, I welcome these news, there are too few of them. Unfortunately, this drug would come too late for my father, who has now been living with this for 15 years (he really takes his time to do things properly, even dying). New drugs would also offer some hope for relatives, since A is also hereditary to at least some extent.
    • I feel for you and concur entirely. I have an uncle who is as big and healthy as a horse otherwise, and is likely to outlive us all (he has also been degrading over 15+ years). Living as a semi-catatonic horse, but alive. For a while, this gentle giant of a man even became violent. That's just wrong. Any drug that could prevent or lessen the effects of Alzheimer's gets an arms-wide welcome from me.
    • Suppose this really is an effective treatment. It will be 10-15 years before it grinds through the system and is available. What happened to the comic book scientists that inject themselves with their promising drugs and gain super powers? Seriously though - if the mouse studies and the stage I studies are far enough to whow efficacy in mice and that it's at least reasonably tolerated in humans why not go for it? People with late stage Alzheimers have nothing to lose. People with earlier stage disease
  • so if you slip up once in taking them, will you forget to take them indefinately? call me when these pills remind you that they have to be taken with wailing sirens & flashing lights on the pill bottle.
    • so if you slip up once in taking them, will you forget to take them indefinately? call me when these pills remind you that they have to be taken with wailing sirens & flashing lights on the pill bottle.

      That wouldn't help. More likely the result would be "Huh, what's all that noise? This bottle? What am I supposed to do with this?" And then maybe the bottle would get put in a drawer.

      It's not just a failure to remember, it's a failure to process information and a failure to make some simple logical co
    • Generally speaking patient's with Alzheimer's should not be living alone. At the very least they have some home health nurses come and ensure they take their medications.
  • by pchan- ( 118053 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:52AM (#15768257) Journal
    Brothers, our time has come. This is the secret weapon that will allow our final victory over The Old People! With this technology in our hands, they will be our slaves. They will mine our ore and harvest our lumber to have access to our precious Alzheimers medicine. The Groundor has become the Groundee. He who controls the spice, er, meds, controls the universe!
  • Promises, schmomises (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hahn ( 101816 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @05:06AM (#15768279) Homepage
    Is it just me or does it seem like every few months, the healthcare media pops up an article about some newfangled treatment that shows "promise" for some disease that everyone knows about? And is it me again, or do we almost never hear about these promising treatments years later? The cynic in me would say that it smells like someone trying to drum up some investment money. What's that? Prana Biotechnologies is listed on the Nasdaq as "PRAN"? And the announcement hit the media before the Monday opening bell? I'm shocked.

    Sadly, the less cynical part of me wonders why we only ever read articles about drugs that show "promise"? When was the last time we saw an article titled "Cure for Disease Found!"? And no, I don't have Alzheimers. I honestly can't recall.

    The problem with this drug is that its promise is based on 2 assumptions:
    1) that amyloid has a causal role in Alzheimers
    2) lowering amyloid will halt or reverse Alzheimers

    Given that we don't actually know that either is true, we really have no idea how good the promise of this drug is. What we DO know is that promises have made a lot of pharmaceutical companies and their management very very very rich. Not that I would begrudge them that if they actually come through with a halfway effective drug. But I also think there should be penalties for putting out media announcements and raising false hopes without even having tested it out on a single human being yet.
    • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @06:10AM (#15768339) Homepage Journal
      It isn't that science isn't making progress, the issue is that science doesn't make progress suitable for todays media.

      Modern scientific advancement is very incremental. In this case (hypothetical for the sake of discussion) someone had to find out that amyloid had something to do with Alzheimers, then maybe a chemical workup on what amyloid is, what causes the body to make/not make amyloid, then some lab tests to find out what chemicals would supress amyloid, and then maybe a few drug samples to test with. Oh and lets not forget that the researchers are answerable to universities, financiers, bosses, and the FDA along the way.

      Think back to your science classes in high school. Even the basic experiments you did there still took 30-45 minutes and then again to write. When you consider the amount of data that professional science has to gather, process, and summarize to do the work correctly, I'm amazed that things move as fast as they do.

      The media, and most casual readers, want to hear "new fantastic drug cure thingy on shelves now". Unfortunately you simply don't have that kind of whiz bang scientific advancement very often. Small, incremental possibilities don't make for good news, and to the unaware can lead to a distrust of science.
    • by bloodredsun ( 826017 ) <martin@NospAM.bloodredsun.com> on Monday July 24, 2006 @07:48AM (#15768491) Journal

      As has been mentioned, there's nothing like the media to really blow a medical announcement out of all proportion. I think this stems from the fact that the possible (that's possible not probable) implications are enormous for a condition which has been a sentence to a painful and lingering type of death, and that nothing sells papers like a good old fashioned sensationalist take on a story, especially one that could affect the readers.

      That it is a symptomatic treatment rather theat a cure is more due to out lack of knowledge of the underlying pathophysiology rather than a conspiracy to earn more money, although the reality is that a cure would be less lucractive. With the spiralling cost of novel drug creation, an easier and more lucrative target is always going to be the first one a company chooses. Not out of cynacism but out of commercial pressures.

      You also mention the 2 assumptions of amyloid involvement in Alzheimers. I think that calling them assumptions is a little unfair as it indicates that there is little or no proof of their involvement in the condition. While there is plenty of proof of their involvement, there is no smoking gun that indicates that they have a direct causal involvement. Yes they are assumed to have a role, but that is because of the supporting data rather than some vague supposition.

      That the timing is a little serendipidous if the company were looking for financial investment, so what? They are entitled to tell this news in the way the benefits them the most. In the UK, false promises get you in a whole load of trouble with various authorities, not least the BPPI. The biggest scandal of big pharma is the marketing cost of these products. Companies spend more money advertising these drugs then they do researching them. Drugs should be used on what is best for the patient, not what sticky pad is infront of the doctor or what their sexy rep tells then to prescribe. As doctors are only human this isn't the way it happens.

      I was an academic researcher in neurosciences (mostly epilepsy with a little bit of parkinsons and alzheimers) and news like this can only be a good thing.

    • by Otter ( 3800 )
      And is it me again, or do we almost never hear about these promising treatments years later?...Not that I would begrudge them that if they actually come through with a halfway effective drug.

      There are several halfway effective treatments for Alzheimer's (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne) although there's considerable room for improvement. The reason you only hear about wildly exaggerated "breakthroughs" is probably because you get your news about science here, and the editors are enthusiastic but completely lacki

    • I'm sorry if your post was inspired by some personal tragedy. It reads to me like maybe it was. You feel personally let-down by the pharm industry. Because your argument seems founded much more in emotion then it is in fact.

      The fact is that over the last 50 years the pharmaceutical industry has made some incredible breakthroughs. And every single one of those drugs was, at some point, at this stage in development.

      The truth is that developing new drugs is VERY capital-intensive. They NEED to keep investors p
    • Though you are no doubt right to be cynical, I can remember one recent announcement of a disease being cured [medindia.net], and it's a big one, cervical cancer (though perhaps it is truer to say it is a prevention rather than a cure).

    • There's a staggering attrition rate from the research-and-press-release phase of development to the ready-for-use-on-humans phase. Things prove unsafe, things work in mice but not humans ("if you get cancer, your first move should be to become a rat. Then we can cure you"), and so on. The reason drug companies spend almost as much on research as on marketing is that most new molecules don't work out.
  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @05:43AM (#15768310) Journal
    I think this may be a dupe, but I can't remember. Perhaps I really suffer from attention defi Let's go ride BICYCLES!
  • by tompee ( 967105 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @05:56AM (#15768324)
    I wonder (and perhaps someone with more education than I can speculate), if amyloid concetrations in the brain are reduced, will the patients be able to remember things that they have forgotten, or will they "just" be capable of remembering new information again?
    • I am guessing, but it may only be by reducing the amyloid levels in the brain that it can finally be known for sure what effect amyloid levels have on the brain. It may be (but I think they already know that this is not the case) that amyloid is a byproduct of bio-bitrot, not the cause. Anyway, if they can reduce the amyloid levels then presumably they would be able to determine if the link is causal or not.

      If this treatment proves effective then nobody should ever get alzheimers again, but it would indeed
    • if amyloid concetrations in the brain are reduced, will the patients be able to remember things that they have forgotten, or will they "just" be capable of remembering new information again?

      IANAMD. From my understanding of it, having attended a couple of presentations by a prominent Alzheimer's researcher in Boston, the accumulation of amyloid plaques takes up greater and greater space in the volumes between neurons. This destroys existing links between neurons (physically tearing them apart), impedes the

    • It's not this simple, but if I understand correctly, if the amyloid clears out and there hasn't been significant brain tissue degeneration due to prolonged nerve dysfunction, then areas of their brain that were "clogged" up should function correctly again. This means remembering things that had been forgotten, among other things. In human memory, unlike in computer memory, recall and storage are practically one in the same thing - so if you can't remember something, it isn't meaningfully different from losi
  • That progress is being made is great, but isn't it a bit premature to be announcing this on Slashdot? It seems to me that a Slashdot story would only be appropriate once human trials show promising results.

    Otherwise are we going to see stories on every new potential wonder drug coming down the pipe?

    • No, its not too early to be a /. story IMO. If, because he read about it here, some VC with an ailing parent decides to underwrite a larger scale of testing to bring it to market that much quicker, and the testing indicates its good to go, then the "wasted ink" on /. will have been worth it.

      Serendipity, the keyword here, because you never know who's reading /. Will it help me? Doubtfull, as I'm already 71 & watching my sugar, so a heart or other circulatory problem will probably write my last chapter
    • What are you saying? That there aren't any non-humans on /.? You, you, speciesist, you!
  • "Thank you for calling the Alzheimer's Research...umm...uhh...lavatory. Lobotomy. Oh gosh..."

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @08:40AM (#15768683) Journal

    There are many non-Alzheimer's dementias. It will be great if they can cure, or even treat Alzheimer's; but if that's the case, I hope it doesn't cause people to lose interest (and funding) to find treatments/cures for all the other types.

  • Now where did I park my car again?
  • In related stories (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Budenny ( 888916 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @10:05AM (#15769300)
    In two related stories from the UK, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence explained that this was not a cost effective treatment for early stage Alzheimers, but was endorsed for use by the National Health Service for extreme late stage cases with a life expectancy not exceeding 6 months. The news was applauded by the Ministry of Health, who released a statement yesterday in which they said that just as it was inappropriate to treat macular degeneration until it has caused the loss of sight in at least one eye, so it could not be a national priority to treat Alzheimers patients until they were well and truly demented.

    The second story followed a day later, and consisted of a chorus of local health authorities explaining that they were not proposing to prescribe the drug in cases endorsed by NICE because it was too expensive and they were running out of budget, and of course, they would find it impossible to prescribe for cases where NICE had not endorsed it.

    However, they encouraged the British public who felt that they would benefit from this and other treatments which they chose not to provide, or not to provide in a timely manner, to remortgage their houses, and pay for the treatments themselves. This after all was the general practice in the UK for other rare and exotic treatments for uncommon conditions, such as hip replacements, tamoxifen for breat cancer, diagnostic scans following accidents and so on.

    Members of the British public, interviewed on the BBC, said they were delighted to be living in the UK and looked after by the NHS. It was after all the envy of the world, and free at the point of use. Many of them volunteered that they had been looked after in a most caring fashion by the staff of their local hospital, who had cured them of difficult cases of MRSA, doubtless contracted by their relatives not washing their hands before visiting the ward.
  • oh, wait, how did we make the stuff?
  • Does anyone know if human trials are planned for the US?
  • Man, if drug companies are evil, this is where they are: hyping up compounds that have only begun to be tested in humans, just to pump up share prices (literally only begun, the announcement of the plan to test this drug in humans was made in May 2006). Although the preclinical, rodent data is good, drugs which have treated the transgenic models of Alzhiemer's have fallen flat many times before. It's worth noting that this same company had the drug PBT1 already being trialed in human Alzhimer's patients in
    • It's worth noting that this same company had the drug PBT1 already being trialed in human Alzhimer's patients in 2003, but for some reason (*cough* probably toxic as hell *cough*) the trials were canceled, and this new drugs was rolled out.

      It's also worth noting the report (linked at their homepage http://www.pranabio.com/index.asp/ [pranabio.com]) of the phase II trial of PBT1. This report shows that there were no statistical differences in adverse event rates between placebo and PBT1. So PBT1 wasn't cancelled for safe

  • Let's just hope nobody finds a way to use this promising medicine as a form of birth control or it will never see the light of day regardless of what it cures.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes