The use of a drug now prescribed to treat cancer has been shown to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice, according to a study from neuroscientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The researchers say the results point to “the significant potential” that the drug, bexarotene, has to help the approximately 5.4 million Americans with the progressive brain disease.
When used in mice, the drug removed the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease — as well as reversed cognitive symptoms and memory deficits, according to the researchers.
Bexarotene even helped restore lost nesting behaviors in mice with Alzheimer’s disease — within 72 hours of treatment, the researchers report. It also improved the mice’s ability to sense and respond to odors. Previous research has shown that the loss of smell is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
“This is an unprecedented finding,” said Paige Cramer, PhD candidate and first author of the study. “Previously, the best existing treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in mice required several months to reduce plaque in the brain.”
Bexarotene has been approved for the treatment of cancer by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more than a decade. It has a good safety and side-effect profile, which researchers hope will help speed the transition to clinical trials of the drug.
“We need to be clear — the drug works quite well in mouse models of the disease,” said Case Western Reserve neuroscientist and senior author of the study Gary Landreth, PhD.
“Our next objective is to ascertain if it acts similarly in humans. We are at an early state in translating this basic science discovery into a treatment.”
Source: Case Western Reserve University