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Therapy shows promise for halting Alzheimer's brain decline – The Chart

While the already-approved Aricept and Namenda medications have shown promise for temporarily easing symptoms, whats desperately needed are treatments that will reverse or prevent the brain decline produced by Alzheimers.

Approximately 5.4 million Americans live with Alzheimers disease and its the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Alzheimers is the most common type of dementia, a term used to describe memory and intellectual loss severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Its caused when deposits of proteins form in the brain and preventing it from properly functioning.

Thies says people in this group are the ideal subjectsfor prevention trials, which might delay or slow the progression of their disease.

Improving detection technologies and updated diagnostic guidelines are enabling the detection of early changes in the brain and subtle cognitive deficits that are consistent with what is known as pre-symptomatic Alzheimers, according to William Thies, the Alzheimers Association chief medical and scientific officer.

Finding drugs that can halt or reverse the effects of Alzheimers disease is one of the holy grails in pharmaceutical research.

In addition to the Gammagard findings, researchers reported updates on three new pre-symptomatic Alzheimers disease studies that are scheduled to begin in the near future. Because recent clinical trials have produced disappointing results, theres a belief among many Alzheimers researchers that the key to cracking the code for treatment success is by testing therapies on people who are predisposed to Alzheimers disease, yet are not symptomatic.

Several trials in the future will focus on that, including trials in a rare population living near Medellin Colombia that is prone to genetically-caused, early onset Alzheimers.

Researchers are seeing promising results of the first long-term clinical trial that measured stabilization of Alzheimers symptoms, including thinking, memory, daily functioning and mood. The early stage results were presented at the Alzheimers Association International Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, this week.

The small study of Gammagard included 16 subjects with mild to moderate Alzheimers disease who were in the first part of the trial and agreed to continue the study for three years. Whats exciting about the results of this trial is that doctors say four of the patients who continued treatment at the highest dosage showed a stop in the worsening of symptoms, making this small study the firstto report symptom stabilization without decline over that longer time span. Larger studies will begin later this year.

The treatment, Gammagard by Baxter, is an intravenous immune therapy that is already approved for treating other immune disorders and infections.

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