The Roskamp Institute is one of many sites nationally that has been chosen to conduct a clinical trial in Alzheimer’s disease using a vaccine approach. Although the mechanism of action of vaccine is unknown, the original idea was that antibodies would circulate in the body and find the amyloid protein in the brain. There are two basic ways to make antibodies appear in the body. One is to give a stimulus protein: in this case the amyloid peptide, which is known as active vaccination or antibodies can be prepared somewhere else and delivered intravenously which is known as passive vaccination.
Original studies conducted by Elan focused on the former approach. Studies carried out in Europe, using an active approach, appeared encouraging in terms of the reduction of pathology of the disease and improved cognition. Unfortunately, however, several patients taking part in the clinical trials with the active vaccine died, most probably due to the vaccination.
At autopsy, it was clear that individuals had suffered a large inflammatory response in their brains. However, importantly, the amyloid deposits, which characterize Alzheimer’s disease, were diminished. This suggested that although the active vaccination was clearly dangerous, it was able to reduce the amyloid load in the brain, which is potentially a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
A much more controllable way to deliver antibodies for amyloid is by passive vaccination. In this approach, antibodies are prepared outside of the human body and delivered intravenously every few weeks. This approach constitutes the new clinical trial being conducted by Elan Pharmaceuticals, including at the Roskamp Institute site. Although experimental, this approach is likely to be much safer than the active vaccine approach and offers real hope that this amyloid lowering therapy may be able to reduce the cognitive impairment (memory loss, disorientation, etc.) that invariably accompany the disease.
The Roskamp Institute is committed to delivering state-of-the-art therapies for Alzheimer’s disease as they appear on the market or in experimental clinical trials.