Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND
The global research effort to find effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has suffered another disappointing setback. Biogen announced today that the company will halt the parallel large Phase 3 trials of the monoclonal antibody against the amyloid beta protein, aducanumab. This treatment was viewed by many to hold tremendous promise. Early results were unprecedented. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were treated with aducanumab showed significant reduction in amyloid burden in the brain, which appeared to slow disease progression. The results were based on a small number of participants, however, and were not adequate to draw firm conclusions. Multiple drugs, including aducanumab, have now proven to bring amyloid levels “back to normal” in people with Alzheimer’s disease, if treatment duration is long enough and dose is high enough. Yet, the prevailing unknown is whether any of these treatments can actually slow the course of disease and produce clinically meaningful benefits for patients and their families. Today’s news suggests that, at least for aducanumab, the answer is no.
Many questions remain and little information is available to us at this time. We, like you, are disappointed by these results. But numerous clinical trials of important candidate therapies remain underway. Each clinical trial is critical to answer scientific questions and propel the field forward. Though we hope trials will move us by leaps with positive results, even the incremental advances brought by negative results will ultimately be key to achieving our goal of bringing more effective therapies to people with Alzheimer’s disease.