Drug success offers hope of finding ‘cure’ for dementia

Dr Hilary lists the early symptoms of dementia

Dementia could be effectively “cured” if a potent wonder drug is fast-tracked for widespread use, experts said on Sunday.

This week scientists will reveal results showing donanemab can slow by 36 percent ­the ­rate ­at which memory and thinking skills decline.

US pharma giant Eli Lilly is set to announce its full clinical trial results before embarking on fast-tracked global approval.

A spokesman told the Daily Express: “Based on the positive results from this ­trial we continue to proceed with global regulatory submissions for donanemab as quickly as possible.”

It is the latest generation of immunotherapy drugs, a type already widely used to treat diseases like cancer.

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The drug works by telling the body’s immune system to attack foreign cells or proteins and dispose of them.

Donanemab teaches immune cells to ­recognise and remove a toxic protein called amyloid, which builds up in Alzheimer’s. It is given to patients through a drip.

If approval is granted in Britain, it could be available in two years.

Nearly half of those on the 18-month trial (compared to 29 percent on a placebo) ­had no clinical progression of the disease after one year.

Samantha Benham-Hermetz, director of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This breakthrough provides compelling evidence we’re now on the cusp of a first generation of treatments for this devastating disease.”

Donanemab was given to patients with early stage Alzheimer’s. Researchers think the drugs might not be effective for people with moderate or severe versions of disease. The results will be presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam on Monday.

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Last week the US drug licensing body approved the first Alzheimer’s drug shown to slow the progression of the disease. The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval for lecanemab, known by its brand name Leqembi.

It is the first drug to tackle the progression of the disease, rather than treat its symptoms. Lecanemab targets amyloid as it begins to form fibres, whereas donanemab binds to amyloid once the fibres have clumped together to become a larger build-up of plaques in the brain.

Mark Mintun, group vice president ­neuroscience research at Eli Lilly, said: “We are encouraged by the potential clinical benefits donanemab may provide.”

There are now 850,000 dementia sufferers in Britain, more than 500,000 of whom have Alzheimer’s.

Targeting amyloid as a potential treatment was first suggested by the renowned University College London neurogeneticist Professor Sir John Hardy in 1991. For the past 30 years it has been one of the main areas of drug research.

Professor Jon Schott, chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The NHS needs to gear up to deliver these ­medicines to everyone who may benefit.

“The research community and funding bodies need to redouble efforts to find drugs that are even more effective, as well as treatments for people with later stage Alzheimer’s and those with other forms of dementia.”

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