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Alzheimer's drug trials to take different approach

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 5:40 p.m.

Timing might be everything when it comes to treating Alzheimer's disease, according to research being presented on Monday at a meeting of the American Neurological Association in Boston.

There is no cure for the disease, which affects more than 5 million people in the country, and numbers are expected to triple by 2050.

Researchers will discuss findings on two large drug trials. Results announced last summer found that they failed to improve cognition or daily functioning compared with a placebo. The bapineuzumab and solanezumab therapies were done on patients with mild to moderate dementia. The drugs target beta amyloid, a protein in the brain believed to cause the disease.

“We think we've been starting trials too late in the progression of the disease,” said Laurie Ryan of the National Institute on Aging.

Scientists are discovering mechanisms of the disease and how it progresses. A large study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that brain changes begin as early as 25 years before the onset of symptoms.

“I'm worried that we're intervening too late and with too little” of the drugs, said Reisa Sperling of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

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