While there is no way of preventing, slowing or treating dementia, the topic took center stage at the annual 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference mid-June.
Solanezumab is the name of the drug researchers focused on, and everyone sat up and paid attention. Experts say it could slow Alzheimer’s disease by stopping the formation of plaques in the brain. Plaques are pieces of protein that accumulate in the spaces between nerve cells.
In the study, one group of people was treated with Solanezumab for 18 months. Another group was given a placebo. Then, the placebo group was given Solanezumab 18 months later. After being monitored for two years, results showed both groups benefitted from the drug, showing a reduction in cognitive decline. But the group that began taking the Solanezumab later appeared to be showing improvements at a slower rate compared to the group that began the drug right away. Researchers believe Solanezumab may be most beneficial when taken in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
"If it proves to be true, it is the strongest argument to date for early Alzheimer's diagnosis, because getting the drug earlier makes a significant difference in the outcome,” said Maria Carillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association.
While researchers are moving forward with an optimistic outlook, there still are challenges. The biggest challenge is funding. For example, last year cancer received more than $5 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Breast cancer alone received more funding than Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease received $562 million in funding.
Still, researchers hope to jump this hurdle and have high hopes to bring even better news to the conference next year.