An experimental drug is showing promise in slowing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
It's called donanemab, and it's a monoclonal antibody.
"It gets in to the brain, in low doses, low concentrations. It binds to the plaque clumps in the brain and then it stimulates the immune system to break up the plaques which is then cleared through the blood system," said Dr. Stephen Salloway, director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital. He said the pandemic did not impact research.
"We call Alzheimer's the epidemic within the pandemic and we need to address it and people are stepping up," said Salloway.
People like Dave Kalberer, of Attleboro, who became the first person in the world -- last September -- to take part in a clinical trial at Butler Hospital, to help prevent Alzheimer's symptoms.
A PET scan had already determined that he had the proteins, including amyloid plaques, that put you at high risk, even though he has no symptoms.
That's a big step in figuring out how to slow -- even stop the progression of this memory robbing disease.
So, is the Trailblazer study, as it's called, is looking at donanemab versus a placebo -- administered once-a-month intravenously.
272 took part in this phase two clinical trial. Because of its impressive results showing it significantly slowed symptoms -- it was fast tracked -- and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
This trial, unlike other similar ones using a monocolonal antibody, was different in one major way.
"Once people got below the level we expect for Alzheimer's, the medication was stopped," said Salloway.
Those study participants are now being tracked to answer a major question: How long do you need to stay on treatment; or is a certain level of treatment enough?
Meanwhile, there are other trials currently going on -- looking at medications -- one looking at lifestyle interventions.
And there's another monoclonal antibody -- aducanumab -- that's being considered for approval by the FDA. It works similarly to donanemab.
Salloway said more people of color are needed in these trials--as we are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer's.