Ohio State continues study into drug to slow Alzheimer’s

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Thousands of patients across the country are taking a breakthrough drug to treat Alzheimer’s, one that the FDA not only approved but put on the fast track.

Called “Lecanemab,” it slows the progression of symptoms if it’s taken in the early stages of the disease. Researchers wondered if it can not only slow the disease but keep it from developing in the first place.

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Ohio State University researchers are now looking for people to take part in a drug trial, but they must be at high risk for Alzheimer’s. NBC4 Anchor Colleen Marshall volunteered to see if she qualifies.

Marshall is considered “high risk” given her mother lived with and died from Alzheimer’s, and her father’s mother and his sister also died of the disease. In addition, one of her first cousins on her father’s side died from Alzheimer’s earlier this year.

The enemy is amyloid protection, which gathers in layers on the surface of the brain. Layer after layer, building up for 10 to 15 years before you show any symptoms. But, while amyloid causes Alzheimer’s, Lecanemab helps strip the amyloid away.

“Its not a miracle drug but it does help slow the decline down of the disease, and so people that are in that very mild group, just sort of the earliest symptoms of the Alzheimer’s or very mild Alzheimer’s dementia, are the only ones who will be able to take advantage of it and be useful for them,” said Dr. Douglas Scharre, an Ohio State Alzheimer’s researcher.

The FDA only approved Lecanemab for those with mild Alzheimer’s. But, researchers wondered what would happen if you gave it to someone who is high-risk, even years before the symptoms show up.

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Marshall rolled up her sleeve so they could check her blood type for two things: genetic markers and the level of amyloid in her blood. Marshall inherited one marker from each of her parents, known as E2, E3 and E4. E4 gives you a higher genetic risk and is associated with the worst kind of Alzheimer’s.

After doctors detect amyloid in a test subject, they conduct a scan to see if participants need the drug infusion once or twice a month. But, did Marshall need it? Did she qualify for the study?

“So you had a two and a three, so you did not have any of the high-risk factors for Alzheimer’s,” Scharre told Marshall. “Sometimes the E2 is even more protective so you are not passing on anything to any children that you might have.”

But, Marshall’s real fear was her level of amyloid. Her mother’s symptoms emerged when she was 79, but researchers now know the deadly amyloid begins to slowly layer years before symptoms appear.

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“The other news we have, in terms of the amyloid, is your amyloid was too low for the study,” said Scharre. “So you don’t qualify to move on.”

Scharre noted that this is not to say that she could not get Alzheimer’s 10 to 15 years from now or have symptoms, but he did not see any evidence of that in the near future.

Marshall said she felt like crying when she heard the news, and felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders.

“I am so relieved, I thought for sure I was going to be the one to get it,” she said.

If you or someone in your family is at high risk for Alzheimer’s, more information on the study can be found by clicking here.

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