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In the Pipeline

A roundup of current drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

BY Anita Slomski // Summer 2007
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At least 160 Alzheimer’s disease drug trials are currently under way, according to the National Institutes of Health, which tracks all federally funded clinical research and some privately supported trials. Here is a sampling of trials in Phases II and III.


DRUG

CURRENT USE

WHY IT MIGHT WORK

AC-1202

Developed specifically for Alzheimer’s disease

The brains of people with Alzheimer’s cannot effectively metabolize glucose, a primary energy source. AC-1202 is being tested as an alternative energy source that will preserve glucose-starved brain cells required for memory tasks and cognition and restore their function.

TH9507 (growth-hormone-releasing hormone [GHRH])

To treat short stature in children

GHRH has been found to decline with age; its decrease may be linked to cognitive decline in both normal aging and Alzheimer’s. Preliminary research shows that GHRH improves cognitive function in healthy men and women and also those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) None

People who frequently eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. DHA, the most abundant of such acids in the brain, might have antiamyloid, antioxidant or other neuroprotective properties that slow the disease’s progress.

Vitamin E, selenium

Nutritional supplements

Healthy men who are enrolled in a cancer prevention trial examining whether selenium and vitamin E can prevent prostate cancer are also being evaluated for their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers hypothesize that taking the supplements can protect neurons from damage caused by increased oxidative stress, which is linked to dementia.

Evista (raloxifene)

To treat and prevent osteoporosis

This study is following postmenopausal women who have mild to moderate dementia. Selective-estrogen-receptor modulator Evista has been found in animal studies to protect neurons from oxidative stress and the ill effects of beta-amyloid.

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A special dye called Pittsburgh compound B reveals damage on PET scans.

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