Experimental Cancer Drug May Improves Memory in Alzheimer's Treatment

Drug failed in treatment of solid tumors but shows promise blocking amyloid-beta plaques.

Drug failed in treatment of solid tumors but shows promise blocking amyloid-beta plaques.

An experimental drug that disappointed in the treatment of cancer may prove to be an effective new therapy in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study published recently in Annals of Neurology, researchers found that memory and brain cell connections were restored in a mouse model of Alzheimer's with the experimental cancer treatment. The novel drug in development by Astra Zeneca, called AZD05030, did not live up to expectations during the treatment of solid tumors.

The drug, however, apparently blocks damage generated by the formation of the amyloid-beta plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, researchers found.

The results of the study, which was part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) program that evaluates failed drugs on diseases different from the original design intention, showed enough promise to begin human trials on the efficacy of AZD05030 in Alzheimer's patients.

"With this treatment, cells under bombardment by beta amyloid plaques show restored synaptic connections and reduced inflammation, and the animal's memory, which was lost during the course of the disease, comes back," senior study author Stephen M. Strittmatter said in a press release.

Over the previous 5 years, researchers have developed a better understanding of the complex processes that cause Alzheimer's disease. AZD05030 was found to block the activation of the FYN enzyme, which leads to problems in the synaptic connections between brain cells.

New drugs that treat several other steps in the Alzheimer's process also have potential, researchers noted.

"The speed with which this compound moved to human trials validates our New Therapeutic Uses program model and serves our mission to deliver more treatments to more patients more quickly," Christopher P. Austin, MD, director of the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.