Posted October 2019
Dementia is the UK’s leading cause of death and can be caused by multiple different diseases, Alzheimer’s disease being the most prevalent of these accounting for 60% of all cases. Alzheimer’s is associated with the build-up of a specific type of protein in the brain known as “beta amyloid”. Researchers have long assumed that removing amyloid proteins from the brains of patients could slow down or even stop disease progression therefore improving outcomes for patients.
The team at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Dementia Research Centre worked on Biogen’s ENGAGE trial between 2017 and 2019 recruiting participants from across Greater Manchester. The trust was one of 13 UK sites participating in this trial. ENGAGE measured the ability of Aducanumab, an antibody designed to ‘mop-up’ pathological brain amyloid, to improve participants’ memory and thinking.
Biogen has now announced its intention to seek regulatory approval for Aducanumab. They hope that Aducanumab may become the first therapy to slow clinical decline in Alzheimer’s disease, whilst also being the first to demonstrate that removal of amyloid protein from the brain can lead to improvement.
Biogen’s decision to seek approval for aducanumab has come at a pivotal time for Alzheimer’s research and follows on from a string of disappointing results which seemed to suggest that treatments aimed at reducing brain amyloid were not working as expected.
The Dementia Research Centre in Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust is a leader in conducting trials in dementia both for industry and charitable funders. Dr Ross Dunne, the centre’s lead states that “We are cautiously optimistic that our trial participants may soon be able to benefit from Aducanumab, the first medication in 20 years which has shown any promise in Alzheimer disease, and the first medicine ever to demonstrate an ability to slow decline. Medical advances that delay onset of Alzheimer’s disease for 5 years would result in 41% fewer people with the disease and 40% lower cost of Alzheimer disease in 2050. For individuals with Alzheimer disease and their families, the ability to get a firm diagnosis of the disease underlying their memory or thinking problems, and the ability to take a medicine for those problems, would be revolutionary.”