2. Clinical trials for promising Alzheimer’s drug at the University of Sask.
University of Saskatchewan researchers are helping to develop a novel Alzheimer’s therapy that early studies have shown to significantly slow the progression of the deadly cognitive disorder.
The team is now preparing to apply for a second phase of clinical trials to advance the development of NeuroEPO – a drug that is a recombinant form of the naturally produced erythropoietin protein, which prevents neuron cell death and stops it growing and communicating of neurons in the brain.
If approved by Health Canada, clinical trials would take place at the University of Saskatchewan.
“[It’s exciting] to be involved in advancing a clinical trial in which we can offer this therapeutic [drug] early for the people of Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Ron Geyer, one of the University of Saskatchewan medical professors who led the project.
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The first phase of clinical trials showed promising results for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Geyer said that 82 percent of patients stabilized their cognitive function within the first year of taking the drug, while 54 percent increased their cognitive function.
“This is one of the most exciting studies I’ve been involved in because of its effectiveness and [because] There is no cure for Alzheimer’s,” Geyer said on CBC radio afternoon edition. “Everything out there today is just suppressing the symptoms.”
Geyer hopes that the second phase can start in spring or early summer.
There are currently about 20,000 people living with dementia in Saskatchewan – about 65 percent of them have Alzheimer’s disease.
The clinical trials will enroll 100 Alzheimer’s patients from the Geriatric Evaluation and Management Program at Saskatoon City Hospital and the University of Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Memory Clinic.
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The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan will help recruit patients for the clinical trials.
Joanne Bracken, the organization’s CEO, said there will be strong interest.
“There hasn’t been a new drug on the market for over 16 years,” says Bracken.
“When people living with dementia start hearing that there are options, that there is a treatment for them and something that would actually change the course of the disease, it inspires them.
“That gives hope.”
Bracken said many Alzheimer’s patients want to participate in research so future generations don’t have to suffer the same condition they have.
“They don’t want their children to get this disease, and they certainly don’t want their grandchildren to get it,” Bracken said.
“Hopefully one day we’ll have people who survive Alzheimer’s disease and I really believe that through research this could happen.”
2nd phase of clinical studies will include new medical methods
The second phase of clinical trials will involve a new way of administering the drug.
NeuroEPO is administered through the nasal cavity. This allows the drug to reach its target in the brain within minutes and avoids potential side effects in other organs.
The team will also introduce a method of detecting Alzheimer’s in the brain that was previously unavailable in Saskatchewan. Positron emission tomography imaging allows researchers to see beta-amyloid plaques – a hallmark of Alzheimer’s in the brain.
“When you combine these with the traditional cognitive tests that clinicians use to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, that combination allows for better diagnostic clarity,” Geyer said.
“It allows them to develop interventions earlier in the disease cycle and ultimately reduce length of stay in hospital.”