KALAMAZOO, MI – For years Alzheimer’s researchers have focused on testing experimental drugs on patients who already have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and significant changes in cognition, memory and behavior. It has become quite clear that researchers have been trying to treat the disease at too late a stage. They agree that they need to be focusing on the very earliest stage, what is called “prodromal AD,” when patients suffer little or no cognitive or memory loss but scans show that their brains contain beta amyloid, the sticky plaques that are the hallmark of the disease that destroy healthy neurons.
“In the past, people with prodromal Alzheimer’s disease would not have been considered to have Alzheimer’s based on the previous criteria,” says Phillip Green, MD, Medical Director of Neurology Research at Borgess Research Institute. “Now we recognize that the prodomal state is the initial part of the continuum to full blown Alzheimer’s. We feel it’s like an iceberg as changes are going on underneath the surface of awareness of Alzheimer’s before it’s expressed. It is felt that amyloid plays a role in the progression of the disease and that if caught early the progression will be influenced.”
More research is focusing on the early prodromal phase. The Scarlet Road Study, currently enrolling patients at Borgess Research Institute, is one such innovative study. Scarlet Road, Green says, is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that will test the effect of injections of an experimental drug, gantenerumab, or placebo on people who have prodromal Alzheimer’s disease. Gantenerumab is a new experimental drug made from human antibodies, a type of protein produced by the human immune system in response to a foreign substance such as a virus or bacteria. Antibodies protect the body from disease by attacking these substances and destroying them. Gantenerumab has been developed to attack the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.
The Borgess Research Institute study will run over a two and a half year period. One third of study participants will receive a low drug dose, one third will receive a moderate drug dose and the remaining group will receive the placebo. Most studies follow a 50/50 drug to placebo formula; in this study participants have a two in three chance of receiving the actual experimental drug. Neither participants or study staff will know who is receiving the study drug and who is receiving the placebo.
For further information on the Scarlet Road Study, call (269) 226.4803 or go to research.borgess.com.