Axovant’s experimental drug for dementia with Lewy bodies failed in trial

Unfortunately one of the few experimental drugs being studied in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) has failed. The drug is known as intepirdine. The manufacturer is Axovant. Here’s a link to a short news article from this morning:

www.statnews.com/2018/01/08/alzheimers-axovant-intepirdine/

BIOTECH
A new Alzheimer’s drug, once worth billions, is headed for the trash
By Damian Garde
January 8, 2018
Statnews

Robin

 

Our drug system is set up to fail, for Alzheimer’s, etc. We need biomarkers.

This is an interesting, long article in Politico, of all places, on Alzheimer’s (and diabetes) drug development.  One focus of the article is on developing biomarkers.  Biomarkers are “biological indicators in patients that can be easily measured, and that provide early indicators of whether an experimental drug is actually doing something that’s likely to help the patient. ”  Of course we need biomarkers for all neurological diseases, not just Alzheimer’s.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The effort largely revolves around finding better biomarkers for…diseases—that is, biological indicators in patients that can be easily measured, and that provide early indicators of whether an experimental drug is actually doing something that’s likely to help the patient. A good biomarker can drastically cut the need for massive, long-running, superexpensive trials, by giving researchers a fast, easily measured and reliable answer to the basic question, “Does this drug work?” It can also give basic researchers clues as to which research avenues are most likely to pay off, avoiding dead ends and speeding the early stages of development.

In Alzheimer’s, researchers have tried to judge the effectiveness of experimental drugs by assessing how the drug affects cognitive decline in patients—by giving patients memory tests, for example. The problem is that most experts now believe that by the time cognitive decline has advanced enough to be clearly detected through memory tests, any window for hitting the brain with a drug capable of staving off the disease has long since closed, possibly for two or more decades. Researchers can give people the drug earlier on in life, before symptoms show—but they might have to wait 20 or 30 years to find out if the drug worked, or even if a test subject had Alzheimer’s in the first place. What researchers need is a biological signal that can indicate a patient is developing Alzheimer’s years before cognitive decline shows up, and that can quickly measure whether a drug is slowing the progress of the disease. Though drugs that attack the brain plaques and tangled proteins that characterize Alzheimer’s haven’t worked so far in patients with cognitive decline, notes Lilly’s Skovronsky, plaques and tangles may in fact be the right biomarkers if they can be assessed in pre-cognitive-decline patients. That’s been hard to do in real time because the full extent of damage until recently could be clearly seen only in brain samples taken after the patient’s death.

Here’s a link to the full article:

www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/12/13/drug-industry-new-developments-000598

The missing Alzheimer’s pill
When it comes to some of the biggest diseases America faces in the future, our drug system is set up to fail. What needs to happen?
By David H. Freedman
Politico
12/13/2017 05:19 AM EST

Robin

Caregivers are often forgotten (article by widow of Gene Wilder)

This is an article by Karen Wilder, the widow of Gene Wilder who died in 2017 with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). She writes for ABC News (abcnews.com). Karen Wilder describes her late husband’s symptoms and her role as a caregiver. Though this article is about caregiving for someone with AD, the messages apply to all caregivers. Basically, her messages are that caregivers are overlooked and caregivers can die before their loved ones.

She says: “But let’s not forget that other killer — the silent one that takes its victim even before the disintegration of brain cells does its own dirty work. I am speaking of the crisis that can kill the once-healthy loved spouses, siblings, friends and adult children of Alzheimer’s patients, who devote almost every waking hour of their lives (and also the nights) to caring for a person they love.”

She notes that: “40 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before the patient according to a study done by Stanford Medicine — not from disease, but from the sheer physical, spiritual and emotional toll of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.”

And she says: “It is a strange, sad irony that so often, in the territory of a disease that robs an individual of memory, caregivers are often the forgotten. Without them, those with Alzheimer’s could not get through the day, or die — as my husband did — with dignity, surrounded by love.”

Here’s a link to the article on the ABC News website:

abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/gene-wilders-widow-care-alzheimers/story?id=52045475

Gene Wilder’s widow on what it’s like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s
By Karen Wilder
Jan 2, 2018, 12:36 PM ET
ABC News

Robin

Negative Results with TPI 287 in CBS and PSP

A local support group member whose loved one was involved in this TPI 287 trial at UCSF contacted me a couple of weeks ago to say that she had learned that the trial was not successful.  I haven’t been able to find any independently-written article [see updated below!] on the study results (and, of course, clinicaltrials.gov shows nothing) but there is this pharmaceutical company press release.

The TPI 287 study was discussed by Adam Boxer, MD, UCSF at our recent PSP/CBD conference.  This was a phase 1 study, which has a safety focus.  Researchers are also trying to learn something about efficacy during these studies but that’s not the main point.  In the study, 14 patients with PSP and 30 patients with CBS were included.  32 received the drug and 12 received the placebo.

This seems to be the crux of the problem — “Interestingly, patients treated with TPI 287 performed worse on the [Clinical Dementia Rating] assessment vs. placebo after 12 weeks.”

Update:  A member of our email list forwarded me that independent write-up I was looking for on TPI 287; it’s on Alzforum. Just as the group member said, the trial had negative results. In addition to the worsening in the dementia rating scale (mentioned earlier today), there was also a worsening of falls in CBD and PSP patients. The study was also conducted of the same compound, TPI 287, in Alzheimer’s Disease. The experimental drug was not safe in AD patients at high doses. An excerpt from the Alzforum summary is below.

Robin


www.alzforum.org/news/conference-coverage/least-we-know-these-dont-work-negative-trials-ctad
Excerpt from
At Least We Know These Don’t Work: Negative Trials at CTAD
Alzforum
15 Dec 2017

Abeotaxane
Adam Boxer, University of California, San Francisco, presented his center’s Phase 1 trial of TP1 287. Also known as abeotaxane, this small-molecule taxol derivative stabilizes microtubules. TPI 287 accumulates in the brain, and has been tested primarily to treat central nervous system tumors. Its application to tauopathies grew out of work showing beneficial effects of the microtubule stabilizer epothilone D in tau transgenic mice (Zhang et al., 2012). Testing of epothilone D in AD patients started in 2012 but was discontinued for lack of efficacy.

Boxer’s group examined the safety and tolerability of TP1 287 in 44 people with the primary four-repeat tauopathies cortical basal degeneration (CBD) or progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and in 33 people with AD. Participants received abeotaxane by intravenous infusion once every three weeks for nine weeks, with an option for open-label extension up to three months.

In recruiting for the CBD cohort, Boxer screened with amyloid PET to exclude people with AD and to limit the treatment group to people with pure tau pathology. Of 55 diagnosed with CBD, Boxer excluded seven based on positive amyloid scans. He also used CSF biomarkers to confirm diagnoses: AD patients had lower Aβ42 and higher total tau and phospho-tau levels than CBD/PSP group members, who showed elevations in neurofilament and a higher neurofilament light (NfL)/phospho-tau ratio than the AD group.

Participants received tailored doses of 2, 6.3, or 20 mg/meter2 TPI 287, or placebo.

AD patients tolerated the treatment poorly. Boxer told the CTAD audience that he had to stop the high-dose arm because two participants suffered anaphylactoid hypersensitivity reactions, most likely to the diluent for the active compound. In all, seven people in the AD group discontinued treatment. Curiously, the CBD/PSP group tolerated the drug well, even at the highest dose. They suffered no hypersensitivity reactions, and most participants stuck with the trial even through the open-label extension. However, in CBD and PSP patients, the drug caused more falls, a serious concern.

On the exploratory cognitive endpoints, the researchers saw a hint of stabilization of MMSE scores in the AD group, but no change in the ADAS-Cog, and the CBD/PSP cohort had a dose-related worsening on the Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes at three months.

Boxer has no future plans for the drug, except to complete the analyses of pharmacokinetics and MRIs. He told Alzforum that investigators learned a lot from the trial. “It shows the importance of testing potential treatments in different tauopathies,” he said. “Animal models don’t tell the whole story, and we have to look at different conditions in humans,” he said.

 

Important Research – First Genome-Wide Association Study in DLB

This is a good summary from Alzforum about research published last Friday out of two of the world’s largest brain banks — the University College London and the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.  Researchers genotyped 1743 patients — 1324 of those patients had autopsy-confirmed dementia with Lewy bodies.  They were looking for genome-wide associations in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB).  Basically, they were trying to answer the question — how much of DLB can be explained by genetics?

This breakthrough research was made possible through brain donation.  Our nonprofit, Brain Support Network, has helped over 450 families with brain donation.  All of those families we’ve helped where the diagnosis was confirmed DLB were involved in this important research!  Please let us know if this is interest to your family and we can help make advance arrangements.

“The researchers calculated that, overall, genetic variants account for about 36 percent of the risk for DLB in this sample. This is roughly the same as for PD, but much less than that for late-onset AD.”  Previously-known associations were confirmed — APOE, SNCA (synuclein), and GBA.  “The APOE locus emerged as the most strongly associated with DLB, with the SNCA gene for α-synuclein next. Interestingly, though, the particular SNCA SNPs were different from the ones associated with PD.”  A new loci was discovered — CNTN1.

The study was funded by two UK organizations — Alzheimer’s Society and Lewy Body Society.

Here’s a link to the Alzforum summary:

www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/first-genome-wide-association-study-dementia-lewy-bodies

First Genome-Wide Association Study of Dementia with Lewy Bodies
15 Dec 2017
Alzforum

And MedicalXpress had a good summary of the research as well.  Here’s a link to that as well:

medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-dementia-lewy-bodies-unique-genetic.html

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Unique genetic profile identified
December 15, 2017
MedicalXpress

Robin

Coping with problem behaviors (DICE approach and a useful caregiver guide book)

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) hosted a two-day summit in October 2017 on research that is needed to improve quality of care of persons with dementia and their caregivers.  The summit was streamed live.  The summit was of most interest to those involved in research.  Only a few useful ideas were shared, including the DICE approach, which we’ve heard about previously.  It is an approach to responding to difficult behaviors.

DICE =

Describe – the who, what, when and where of situations where problem behaviors occur (the physical and social contexts)

Investigate – current dementia symptoms, medications, sleep habits, etc. that may be contributing to difficult behavior.

Create – a plan to prevent and respond to difficult behaviors by changing environment and educating the caregiver.

Evaluate – how well the plan is being followed and how it is working.  Make necessary adjustments that work for the family.

Recently, Laurie White, a social worker in the North Bay, sent me a copy of her excellent guide for family caregivers on “Coping with Behavior Change in Dementia” (dementiacarebooks.com).  (The book is to be shared within our local support group.)  Basically, this is a handbook to implementing the DICE approach.  Laurie and co-author Beth Spencer begin by saying that the family caregiver must become a “detective” to understand the cause of these behaviors.  They address coping with the 4As – anxiety, agitation, anger, and aggression – among other problems.  One guide book gives lots more helpful ideas to dementia caregiving than an entire two-day NIH conference!

Robin

 

“Is It Alzheimer’s or Another Type of Dementia? How the Experts Make a Diagnosis”

This post may be of interest to those dealing with the non-Alzheimer’s dementias in our network — Lewy body dementia, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. (PSP and CBD do not always present with dementia.) Lewy body dementia is specifically mentioned in this interview.

Being Patient (beingpatient.com) is an Alzheimer’s news website. In July 2017, the news organization interviewed Dr. Marwan Sabbagh of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ. In the interview, Dr. Sabbagh describes the challenge in making a dementia diagnosis. He describes some improvements that could be made in the standard practice of diagnosing dementia.

Dr. Sabbagh says: “Pathologically pure Alzheimer’s without any other pathology is quite rare. It’s only like 33 to 40 percent. Most Alzheimer’s is mixed with something else – hippocampal sclerosis, vascular change, argyrophilic grain [disease], or Lewy body. Pure disease of any type is quite uncommon. A lot of people have overlap but they look typically like Alzheimer’s dementia, so the clinical presentation and the pathological presentation don’t always align as much as you would think they would. … As a clinician, I ask ‘What’s the clinical syndrome and how do we go about teasing it out to make sure we have the correct diagnosis?’ … People are grossly misdiagnosed. Lewy body is not detected often. Most of the other dementias are completely missed.”

The video interview is just under 12 minutes. Excerpts from the interview are copied below. (The “transcript” doesn’t include all of the interview.)

Robin

===============================================

www.beingpatient.com/alzheimers-another-type-dementia-experts-make-diagnosis/

Is It Alzheimer’s or Another Type of Dementia? How the Experts Make a Diagnosis
Interview with Marwan Sabbagh, MD
Being Patient (beingpatient.com)
July 26, 2017

Although the National Institute of Health has published medical reports on guidelines to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, it can sometimes take years for patients to get an accurate diagnosis from their primary care doctors. Expensive scans or lumbar puncture tests are one way to confirm the presence of beta amyloid plaques or tau tangles in the brain, but those aren’t an option for many patients due to their high cost. Being Patient asked Marwan Sabbagh, a leading researcher on the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at the Barrow Neurological Institute about the best way to determine if a patient is suffering from mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Being Patient: There’s a lot of confusion over how you get diagnosed for Alzheimer’s disease. Previously, we’ve been told that a PET (positron emission tomography) scan or a spinal tap are the only conclusive ways to figure out whether there are plaques and tangles in your brain. Why is there so much confusion over diagnosing dementia?

Marwan Sabbagh: The historical, medical practice in the United States has been to take a diagnosis of exclusion. You have a medical history, a neurological exam, cognitive impairment, historically, and then you get a MRI to exclude brain tumors, masses, hydrocephalus, or stroke. You get a thyroid [exam] to exclude thyroid problems, and you get a B12 level [test] to exclude deficiencies in B12. The problem has been a diagnosis of exclusion is a grossly inaccurate approach and the diagnostic accuracy, at best, is 75 percent.

Being Patient: What are some of the essential questions you need to ask and what are some of the essential things that primary care doctors should be looking at in order to determine whether or not this is Alzheimer’s dementia?

Marwan Sabbagh: I think doctors know how to do a mini-mental state exam – a MOCA, Montreal Cognitive Assessment. They know what to do but they don’t know what questions to ask on the front end, so I’ve been proposing a restructuring of the initial side of the consultation. There are structured interviews that are available now – the AD8, the AQ and the IQ code. These are caregiver informant-based interviews. Do they have this?Do they have that? Are they doing this? [These questions] inform the provider to say, “It’s time to look further.”

The second thing I propose is that we need to look at aggregate risk analysis. There are now ways to say that the probability of Alzheimer dementia is very high if you are age 85, have a family history, female gender, hypertension and diabetes. You can come up with a score that says the probability of Alzheimer dementia is very high.

Being Patient: I want to talk a little bit now about different types of dementia and diagnosis – a number of patients say they were misdiagnosed and a pathologist we spoke to said that, through autopsy, he found that the majority of cases in his practice are being misdiagnosed. How do you tell if it is Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia?

Marwan Sabbagh: Pathologically pure Alzheimer’s without any other pathology is quite rare. It’s only like 33 to 40 percent. Most Alzheimer’s is mixed with something else – hippocampal sclerosis, vascular change, argyrophilic grain (disease) or Lewy body. Pure disease of any type is quite uncommon. A lot of people have overlap but they look typically like Alzheimer’s dementia, so the clinical presentation and the pathological presentation don’t always align as much as you would think they would.

As a clinician, I ask “What’s the clinical syndrome and how do we go about teasing it out to make sure we have the correct diagnosis?” You are absolutely right. People are grossly misdiagnosed. Lewy body is not detected often. Most of the other dementias are completely missed.

Being Patient: Does it matter to the patient in the end in terms of how they’re dealing, and coping, and engaging in maybe lifestyle treatments or medication?

Marwan Sabbagh: It does. It matters a lot. The reason it matters is lifestyle modifications, which are probably very good for brain wellness and prevention strategies in the Alzheimer’s spectrum from pre-symptomatic to the full dementia probably do not have as much data to support the recommendations in other dementias. Flatly, I don’t think there’s any shred of evidence that lifestyle recommendations would help another dementia like Lewy Body or frontotemporal dementia.

Being Patient: Is there a difference in diagnosing early onset versus dementia as Alzheimer’s in an elderly patient?

Marwan Sabbagh: In the way I approach it, yes. Most commonly, if it were a young person, early onset, I would do a spinal tap as my CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) confirmation to confirm the diagnosis. I tend to be a little bit more aggressive and invasive in what I do to diagnose my patients. Older patients, I might get a PET scan and, if it’s approved, I might get neuropsychological testing. I might get an ApoE genotype.

Being Patient: So many people now are impacted by this disease, a lot who are the children of a parent or a grandparent, and they want to know what are the early signs that they should look out for?

Marwan Sabbagh: You never misplaced things, now you’re misplacing things from time to time. You’re telling something repeatedly and you never did that before. These are the kinds of very subtle, very beginning things that would say [it’s] time to get an evaluation. Especially if there’s a risk.

Being Patient: There are people who carry ApoE4, who have both one variant and are homozygous, and there are people who don’t, who end up getting Alzheimer’s. How much should that genetic profile enter into diagnosis?

Marwan Sabbagh: That’s controversial and I’m sure you’ve had different opinions from different doctors so I’m going to give you my perspective. I tend to be on the more progressive side of the discussion. In the clinical evaluation of my patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s or dementia due to Alzheimer’s, I frequently order an ApoE genotype. If they’re an ApoE4 carrier in the setting of MCI or dementia due to Alzheimer’s then the probability of Alzheimer’s pathology in the mix is very high.

I never order it for people who are asymptomatic, even if they have a family history. I agree with many in the field that it’s not inherently a diagnostic, it is simply a risk factor, but it’s a very rich risk factor because, if you are an ApoE4 carrier, the probability of having Alzheimer’s amyloid on your PET scan is very high. Some people are even proposing the idea of using it as a screening tool. Has this become common practice? The answer is absolutely no.

Being Patient: Once you give someone a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia, do you believe the earlier you catch it the better off you are?

Marwan Sabbagh: I come from the school of thought that Alzheimer’s is a treatable disease. I am aggressive in treating my patients. I am proactive in addressing their healthcare needs, their family needs, their medication needs, their legal needs, and offering clinical trials as an added value to our clinical practice. Patients want that information. They’re seeking it. They’ve craving it. They want it from a credible source.

 

“An Advance Directive for My Mind” (letter to children)

The author of this blog post helps her stepfather care for her mother who has dementia. This blog post is a guide to the author’s children if the author develops dementia and ends up being cared for by her children.

An excerpt: “If the time comes when I’m no longer who I used to be, help me live my life, but also set boundaries for living your own. My life is almost over and yours isn’t, so save yourself. Take care of me only as long as you can take care of yourself too. Don’t try to do everything. Before the chaos overwhelms you, get as much help as you need, as quickly as you can.”

Here’s a link to the blog post on “Medium”:

medium.com/@rachelratliff/an-advance-directive-for-my-mind-a358ce80af7d

An Advance Directive for My Mind
by Rachel Ratliff
Medium
Nov 28, 2017

If you read the blog post online, you can also listen to the music suggested by the author.

Robin

 

Results from AbbVie phase 1 study of tau antibodies in PSP

At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, reports were given on phase 1 trials of tau antibodies. Tau is the protein involved in Alzheimer’s, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. Phase 1 studies are focused on safety, not efficacy.

Alzforum posted a summary over the weekend on this tau research that involved PSP volunteers. Basically, the experimental drug seemed safe, and AbbVie is proceeding to a phase 2 trial in PSP. UCSF is one of the trial sites.

You will hear plenty more about this research is you attend our October 28th PSP/CBD Research Update and Family Conference in the SF Bay Area. Registration will open soon. We are hoping that AbbVie will sponsor part of our conference. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here’s a link to the Alzforum summary about this PSP research:

www.alzforum.org/news/conference-coverage/high-dose-av-and-tau-immunotherapies-complete-initial-safety-tests

High-Dose Aβ and Tau Immunotherapies Complete Initial Safety Tests
Series – Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017
27 Aug 2017
Alzforum

Robin

 

The need to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other dementias

This is a long article in a recent LA Times about whether it’s important to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Understandably, the focus is still on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here are some excerpts:

* “Alzheimer’s disease is the most feared and most common form of dementia, accounting for between 60% and 80% of all dementia cases diagnosed. But at least seven other forms of dementia, and dementia linked to the movement disorder Parkinson’s disease, can cause loss of memory, reasoning, judgment and the ability to speak, comprehend and care for oneself.”

* “Doctors and insurers, including the federal government, which administers Medicare, are asking some variants of the same questions: If an effective test, which costs between $3,000 and $5,000 a shot, can diagnose dementia early, and distinguish Alzheimer’s from other forms of dementia, should it be recommended to patients with cognitive concerns and routinely covered by their insurance? Would it make patients’ lives better, or lower the cost of their care?”

* “At the Alzheimer’s Assn. International Conference in London last week, researchers reported their preliminary findings from a trial that is testing the impact of diagnostic testing for Alzheimer’s disease on nearly 19,000 Medicare beneficiaries … with a diagnosis of either ‘mild cognitive impairment’ or atypical dementia. The study … set out to find out whether knowing — getting the costly test that would offer either confirmation or reprieve — would change the way that patients with cognitive troubles are treated, or the way that they plan their lives. The preliminary results suggested it did. After getting the results of a PET brain scan to detect and measure amyloid deposits, which are the key hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, roughly two-thirds of the subjects saw their medication regimens changed or were counseled differently by their doctors about what to expect. That new information may have guided family caregivers in planning their own futures, or prodded patients to make financial decisions and power-of-attorney assignments sooner. Some who learned that they did not have Alzheimer’s discontinued medications that can have unpleasant side effects. Others learned they do have Alzheimer’s and decided to enroll in clinical trials that will test new drugs.”

* “A second study presented in London analyzed data from several studies, and found that in a large population of research participants with cognitive concerns, brain amyloid PET scans led to a change in diagnosis in approximately 20% of cases.”

* “To the estimated 16 million Americans living with some form of cognitive impairment, telling the difference could make a significant difference. Dementia forms with different origins progress differently (or sometimes not at all). They respond best to different medications, and will come to require different levels of care and treatment. Some (though not Alzheimer’s) can even be reversed with treatment. Being able to distinguish which form of dementia a patient has should help doctors and caregivers to make better choices.”

Here’s a link to the full article:

www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-alzheimers-transcranial-magnetic-stimulation-20170726-story.html

Science Now
Is it Alzheimer’s or another dementia form? Why doctors need to distinguish and how they might do so
by Melissa Healy
LA Times
July 27, 2017

Robin