THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Although a study in 2012 suggested a cancer drug could reverse the thinking and memory problems associated with Alzheimer's disease, three groups of researchers now say they have been unable to duplicate those findings.
The teams said their research could have serious implications for patient safety since the drug involved in the study, bexarotene (Targretin), has serious side effects, such as major blood-lipid abnormalities, pancreatitis, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation and rash.
"Anecdotally, we have all heard that physicians are treating their Alzheimer's patients with bexarotene, a cancer drug with severe side effects," said study co-author Robert Vassar, a professor of cell and molecular biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago. "This practice should be ended immediately, given the failure of three independent research groups to replicate the plaque-lowering effects of bexarotene."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved bexarotene in 1999 to treat refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Once approved, however, the drug also was available by prescription for "off-label" uses.
The 2012 study suggested that bexarotene was able to rapidly reverse the build-up of beta amyloid plaques in the brains of mice. The authors of the initial study concluded that treatment with the drug might reverse the cognitive and memory problems associated with the development of Alzheimer's.
Sangram Sisodia, a professor of neurosciences at the University of Chicago and a study co-author of the latest research, admitted being skeptical about the initial findings.
"We were surprised and excited -- even stunned -- when we first saw these results presented at a small conference," Sisodia said in a University of Chicago Medical Center news release. "The mechanism of action made some sense, but the assertion t
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