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Health Check: Alzheimer's disease treatment

PET scans are compared to look for signs of amyloid plaques, which are present in the brains Alzheimer's disease patients. (WJAR)

A landmark study may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in the journal Nature, involved 165 people from all over the country with early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Norman James was one of those participants at Butler Hospital. He first went there three years ago because of symptoms that were bothering him.

"Forgetfulness was the major thing,” said James. “Names and faces and persons and things that I couldn't bring up."

"Norman really knew it himself enough so that he called and followed up here with Dr. Salloway," said James’ wife, Elaine.

That diagnosis led to him taking part in the Prime Study, looking at an experimental drug called Aducanumab.

"It's a big deal," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, director of Butler’s Memory and Aging Program.

"So, this drug in this trial substantially lowered the amyloid plaque from the brain at higher doses and the degree of lowering is really unprecedented," Salloway said.

It's amyloid that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

"And for the first time we showed that the lowering of amyloid was associated with a slowing of memory loss,” said Salloway. “That's a big deal."

Aducanumab is infused monthly. During the trial, neither James nor Salloway knew if he was getting the actual medicine. What is known is, for those who got it during the trial, there was a marked difference.

He showed us a PET scan of somebody before treatment and after. The after picture showed substantially lower amyloid.

And while we may never know if James received the actual drug during the trial, he is now and his memory tests are impressive.

"I can confirm that Mr. James is doing very well," said Salloway.

"I think that he's doing better," said his James's wife, Elaine. "And our children, although they don't live locally, they think that dad is doing better."

There are two trials, currently enrolling, to help confirm these early results.

For more on the new trial for Aducanumab:

ENGAGE Study

• General info: butler.org/memory is the home for all the clinical trials and other information pertaining to the program. The phone number is 401-455-6403

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