Lecanemab: Drug Developed to Treat Alzheimer’s Slows Progression of Disease

Researchers have heralded Lecanemab, a drug that slows the destruction of the human brain due to Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the Lecanemab has ushered in a new era of drugs that could treat the disease.

Alzheimer’s Research UK called the finding’s ‘momentous’ despite the fact that Lecanemab has a minimal effect and its effect on people’s lives remains a subject of debate. Lecanemab works in the initial stages of the disease.

However, scientists and researchers have hailed the discovery as a major breakthrough. Researchers speaking to the BBC said they were excited because they have had “a 100% failure rate for a long time.”

When someone contracts Alzheimer’s beta amyloid builds up in their brains. Lecanemab is an antibody which has been engineered to direct the immune system to clear amyloid from the brain.

The amyloids are proteins that form in a clump-like manner and build up in the spaces between neurons in the brain and form distinctive plaques.

During the trials, 1,795 volunteers with early stage Alzheimer’s were given Lecanemab every fortnight. The results showed that the decline was slowed by around a quarter over the course of the 18 months of treatment. The results of the trials were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference in San Francisco, the BBC said in its report. The disease, however, continued to rob people of their brain power.

“We’re seeing the beginning of Alzheimer’s therapies,” Professor John Hardy was quoted as saying by the BBC. He was one of the researchers who proposed targeting amyloids three decades ago.

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Regulators in the US are assessing the data and will soon decide if Lecanemab can be approved for wider use. Developers Japan’s Eisai and US’ Biogen are planning to start the process of approval in other countries in 2023. People who participated in the trial and their family members are hopeful that Lecanemab will help them combat Alzheimer’s.

However, Professor Tara Spire-Jones said Lecanemab has a small impact on the disease but also told the BBC: “Even though it is not dramatic, I would take it.” Researchers claim that the drug gives them a foothold in treating an untreatable disease.

There are also side effects like brain bleeding which was recorded in 17% of the participants and brain swelling in 13% of the participants in the trial. At least 7% of the total participants stopped taking the drug due to its side effects.

Brain scans showed a risk of brain bleeds (17% of participants) and brain swelling (13%). Overall, 7% of people given the drug had to stop because of side effects.

Researchers also said that amyloids present one part of the picture and there are other elements like the toxic protein called tau found where brain cells are dying, which also need to be considered.

Another doctor who treats Alzheimer’s patients said that after diagnosis, patients have sixteen months where they can live independently and with the new drug they may have nineteen months time. Experts also pointed out that patients will be benefitted when they take the drug at an early stage.

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There are more than 55 million people in the world who suffer from Alzheimer’s and the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease are projected to exceed 139 million by 2050.

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