News / USA

US Launches Campaign Against Alzheimer's, Including Prevention Drug Trials

US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
x
US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (file photo)
Jessica Berman
The U.S. government has announced a major education and research campaign to fight Alzheimer's disease.  As part of that effort, scientists are stepping up their efforts to develop drugs by the middle of the next decade that could prevent the incurable brain-wasting disease.  

Two Alzheimer's disease prevention trials are receiving money from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, as part of the Obama administration's new national strategy to fight the growing problem of Alzheimer's in the U.S. and around the world.  

An estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's or some form of dementia.  The number is expected to grow exponentially as the U.S. population ages, and reach 7.7 million by 2030.  By then, Alzheimer's and other dementia disorders could be affecting as many as 66 million people worldwide.

The so-called National Alzheimer's Plan calls on scientists to develop treatments to prevent the disease by 2025. NIH has set aside $50 million to help fund the effort.  NIH director Francis Collins says the studies herald a new era in Alzheimer's disease research.

"We have learned more about this disease in the last couple of years than probably ever before," said Collins. "And now the goal is to take that and translate it into interventions."

Collins was speaking at an NIH-sponsored conference of the nation's top Alzheimer's researchers.

Scientists at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Arizona announced they will be conducting human trials early next year of an experimental drug, called crenezumab, that they hope will prevent the disease.

The study will involve members of a large extended family living in remote villages within several hundred kilometers of each other near Medellin, Colombia.  Some of the thousands of relatives carry an extremely a rare genetic mutation that inevitably causes early on-set Alzheimer's.  

Those with the genetic flaw begin showing cognitive declines in their mid-forties and are destined to develop full-blown Alzheimer's by their early 50's.

The Banner Institute's Pierre Tariot is one of the lead investigators. Addressing the ethical questions some critics have raised about testing drugs on healthy people in a poor developing country, Tariot says all of the study participants have been fully informed about the possibility that the drug might not work, or that they might get a placebo that does not contain crenezumab.  

Tariot says they still wanted to participate.

"They have been faced with this devastating illness hitting every generation for hundreds of years," said Tariot. "As one of them put it, 'There are many rivers to cross but at least we are at the first bank.'  And that's kind of the attitude that people have had."

Three hundred individuals have signed up for the trial; one-third will receive crenezumab and the others will be given a placebo. The trial will also include a smaller number of individuals in the United States.

If the therapy works in those with early-onset disease, scientists hope it may also help older individuals.

Cremezumab is a vaccine that targets the brain plaques or amyloid protein deposits that are thought to underlie development of Alzheimer's, according to Banner's Eric Reiman, who will help lead the study.

"Crenezumab is an antibody treatment that is intended to bind with amyloid and remove it from the brain," said Reiman.

Injections of crenezumab or placebo will be administered every two weeks.  

The $100-million Colombia trial is slated to last five years, but researchers predict they could see results within two.  NIH is providing $16 million to support the research; Banner is contributing another $15 million.  The major share of the funding - about $65 million - will come from the drug's American manufacturer, Genentech.

A second Alzheimer's drug trial, also funded by NIH, has shown that a nasal insulin spray used twice daily by people with mild cognitive dysfunction seemed to improve their symptoms, offering hope that Alzheimer's could be treated or even prevented.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs