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Existing cancer drugs could become new Alzheimer’s treatments

An experimental drug for liver cancer and Dasatinib, approved for chronic myeloid leukaemia could be repurposed to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Hand of Alzheimer's patient holding nurse's hand

A pre-clinical study from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and collaborating universities in the US has revealed that existing and emerging cancer drugs could be repurposed as therapies to be tested in clinical trials for people at genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

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The research team identified brain protein changes related to the APOE4 genetic risk variant in young postmortem study participants (average age at death was 39 years) and compared these changes with those in the autopsied brains of people with Alzheimer’s and those without (average age at death was 89 years).

The analyses included brain samples from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the Religious Orders Study, and other NIA-funded studies. The researchers tested whether existing US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved or experimental drugs for other diseases act upon some of these proteins.

The drugs also reduced neuroinflammation, amyloid secretion, and tau phosphorylation in cell culture experiments, underscoring their potential as candidates to be tested in Alzheimer’s clinical trials.”

Their findings, published in Science Advances, showed that an experimental drug for liver cancer and Dasatinib, approved for chronic myeloid leukaemia, act upon some of these Alzheimer’s disease related proteins, suggesting they could be potential Alzheimer’s therapies. The study also showed that the drugs reduced neuroinflammation, amyloid secretion, and tau phosphorylation in cell culture experiments, underscoring their potential as candidates to be tested in Alzheimer’s clinical trials.

The findings follow another recent study showing that treating mice that expressed the human APOE4 gene with the potent diuretic bumetanide reduced learning and memory deficits. According to the researchers, next steps could include testing these drugs in clinical trials. For those already FDA-approved or that have already been tested for safety in other trials, the timeline for testing could be decreased.

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