Tuesday 21 November 2017
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First drug to target tau tangles reduces brain shrinkage in Alzheimers disease

Research presented today has shown that the drug LMTX may slow down brain shrinkage in some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease by up to a third.

This research was shared at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2016. It also improved cognition and the ability of some people with Alzheimer’s to carry out their daily activities when taken over a 15-month period.

Overall, the phase III clinical trial of LMTX led by the company TauRX was negative - the drug failed to meet its goal of improving cognition, including attention, memory and language, and ability to carry out everyday tasks in 891 people with Alzheimer’s disease. However, 85% of the participants were already taking existing treatments for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and when these participants were excluded, the researchers reported improvements in cognition, functional abilities and brain volume for those taking LMTX on its own, compared to those taking a placebo.

In the 15% of participants who took LMTX without any other Alzheimer’s medications (82 people in total), there was a reduction in brain shrinkage of 38% for those taking a lower dose, and 33% for the higher dose group. Scores on tests of cognition and performance on daily activities were significantly improved after 15 months in those taking both doses of LMTX relative to placebo.

LMTX stops tau protein from forming tangles in the brain, which cause damage to cells and is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. These are the first phase III trial results to be presented for a drug that targets tau tangles - most other treatments in development for Alzheimer’s disease target amyloid plaques.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said: 

'While it’s disappointing to see another large clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease fail to meet its goal, there appears to have been some striking improvements for the subset of people who took the drug on its own. There are still lots of questions to answer before we know how promising this new treatment could be – why it doesn’t appear to work in those who are already taking other medications for Alzheimer’s disease?

'Only 82 people in the trial took LMTX on its own, so further trials will be needed before we will know whether it is the first drug to slow down the brain damage that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.

'After years of failure, we are now starting to see glimmers of hope for dementia drug trials. The headway being made through research is starting to give a real sense of the possibility that we could one day stop dementia in its tracks.'