While there was no major breakthrough announced among the drug news saved for the final day of the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2019, there were a couple of novel approaches — inhaling insulin to banish memory loss, for one — with at least some positive results behind them.
These small if promising clinical trial results helped part, at least a bit, the dark research cloud that had hung over the conference after it was announced on the eve of the major yearly get-together of Alzheimer's disease experts that two clinical trials of Alzheimer's drugs were met with failure.
That news had stirred debate on the viability of finding a cure by targeting amyloid beta in particular, as the failed drugs had been designed to do. While most researchers accept that understanding how and why the neuron-destroying protein builds up in the brain is an important part of the Alzheimer's riddle, some now say that as a drug target, amyloid beta likely appears too far along in the disease progression to make halting it an effective treatment goal.
As Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement: “Anti-amyloid drugs, though possibly helpful in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's, have not yet proven effective in mild to moderate stages of the disease, even when they clear the brain of amyloid plaques. However, amyloid research, especially in Alzheimer's prevention trials … may still prove fruitful."
Today's clinical trial results, still in the early stages of review, are related to new approaches that have little to do with amyloid beta.
The first, which was described as a small but promising trial, involved giving inhaled insulin to trial participants for 18 months. While there seemed to be critical differences in results depending on the type of device used to deliver the insulin, one group, at least, showed significant benefits in memory and thinking, day-to-day functioning and biological markers for Alzheimer's as seen in cerebrospinal fluid.