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Possible new drug for Alzheimer's already on the market

February 23, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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Researchers have found a drug that could protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Preclinical studies have shown the anti-cancer drug bexarotene seems to prevent nerve cell degeneration by blocking the production of neurotoxic beta-amyloid fibrils. The findings have been published in the journal “Science Advances.”

“The body has a variety of natural defenses to protect itself against neurodegeneration, but as we age, these defenses become progressively impaired and can get overwhelmed,” says senior author Michele Vendruscolo, professor at the University of Cambridge to PMLive. “By understanding how these natural defenses work, we might be able to support them by designing drugs that behave in similar ways.”

Researchers think bexarotene, or related compounds, could be given as a ‘neurostatin’ to people at risk for Alzheimer’s-type dementia the way statins are given to people with high cholesterol to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Bexarotene was given to nematode worms genetically programmed to develop a neurodegenerative syndrome. It had no effect once symptoms already appeared, but when given early enough, completely prevented symptoms from appearing.

Bexarotene is an approved treatment for lymphoma. Previous tests for Alzheimer’s disease therapy focused on the drug’s ability to dissolve amyloid plaques already formed were unsuccessful.

Researchers caution Bexarotene has many side effects that need to be considered before being prescribed. Still, it’s been more than a decade since a new dementia drug has been found, and repurposing a drug already on the market could speed up the approval process. 

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