Like the research reported this week, we search for pharmacological breakthroughs by developing drugs to interfere with the accumulation of either the amyloid or tau proteins, or both. One way to achieve this is to use an active vaccine to stimulate the immune system to attack amyloid or tau. Alternatively, artificial antibodies against amyloid or tau can be given regularly via infusions. This is known as a passive vaccine.
Other, non-vaccine treatments against amyloid and tau are also in development. For example, drugs may aim to remove the amyloid or tau or to stop their formation to begin with.
There is other good news that suggests we are getting closer to treating Alzheimer’s disease. A recent re-analysis of data from some large, but failed, clinical trials of an amyloid vaccine called solanezumab showed beneficial effects in a subgroup of patients.
Another amyloid vaccine, aducanumab, was recently shown both to remove amyloid and to improve thinking in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Both of these vaccines are being investigated in Australia and people who would like to find more information on them can contact their doctor or our research laboratories.
Obviously, the more shots on goal the better. Success in human drug development is painfully low. Pharmaceutical industry estimates suggest the development of a new drug is estimated to require at least 10-15 years.
Despite my mother-in-law’s suggestions, I still turned up for work today. While I hope these new vaccines are effective there is a high probability they will fail to hit their target in living humans, or they will hit the target but in doing so make people sick for other reasons. Or maybe the target is wrong altogether. So it isn’t the time to focus elsewhere just yet.