TUESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- An immune-based drug therapy using blood plasma antibodies has stalled the progression of Alzheimer's disease in a small group of patients receiving the therapy over three years.
A phase 2 trial carrying 16 of 24 participants from an earlier study suggested a slower-than-expected deterioration in their thinking abilities, behavior and daily function with twice-monthly infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIg. Four of the patients who had received a standardized dose throughout the 36 months showed no decline on standard measures of cognition, memory, daily functioning and mood.
"When [Alzheimer's patients are] untreated, there are typically measurable declines every three to six months . . . so for four to be stable over a three-year period is very much unexpected," said study author Dr. Norman Relkin, director of the Weill Cornell Memory Disorders Program, in New York City. "And while that's not enough to say this is an effective drug, it is encouraging. There have been so many disappointments, I don't want to create false hope, but I'm very encouraged."
Relkin is expected to present his findings Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Alzheimer's disease affects about 5 million Americans, with an estimated 35 million worldwide suffering from dementias that encompass Alzheimer's. Current treatments, including donepezil (Aricept) and memantine (Namenda), sometimes ease symptoms temporarily, but nothing on the market can halt or cure the devastating condition.
IVIg, known by the brand name Gammagard and already used clinically to treat certain immune deficiencies, cancers and autoimmune disorders, is thought to slow down or prevent the buildup of toxic beta-amyloid proteins, which cause the sticky brain plaques that distinguish Alzheimer's.
Infusions with IV
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