• Clinical Trials

    Expert Alert: Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., discusses future of Alzheimer’s research after drug trial fails


ROCHESTER, Minn. – Eli Lilly’s Phase III drug trial attempting to slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s disease disappointed many when it recently was announced that the study did not meet its primary endpoints.

The trial used the antibody solanezumab to attempt to target the building blocks of amyloid plaques in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein which cause damage to the brain and disrupt cell-to-cell communication. The destruction of these plaques, which are a key player in the disease, had potential to provide stabilization for Alzheimer’s patients. This endpoint, however, was not reached.

Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Mayo Clinic, offers his insight on what this announcement signifies for the future of Alzheimer’s research.

“The question comes up ‘is amyloid still a viable target in Alzheimer’s disease?’ And I think the answer is still yes,” says Dr. Petersen. “The solanezumab trial may have failed for one or two or more reasons, but one being that we’re still attacking the disease too late in the process. We’re attacking it when some plaques are already in the brain, and irreversible damage may have been done.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Kelly Reller, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284 5005, newsbureau@mayo.edu

Dr. Petersen says while this specific drug trial was disappointing, other anti-amyloid drug treatments still are being studied, including Mayo Clinic research on cognitively normal individuals who have amyloid protein in the brain but do not have Alzheimer’s symptoms.

He also cites a recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine that found the rate of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia has declined significantly between 2000 and 2012.

“The reduction of the rate of dementia in this country may tell us that some of our lifestyle modifications have, in fact, been effective,” says Dr. Petersen. “We’ve had a reduction in stroke. We’ve had a reduction in high blood pressure over the years. They may have had a secondary effect on reducing cognitive impairment and maybe even dementia down the road. We still have a lot to learn about this. It’s a complex picture.”

Dr. Petersen discloses that he has consulted with Eli Lilly in the past; he did not consult on this Phase III clinical trial.

Watch: Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s researcher hopeful, despite new drug’s failure.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Petersen, contact Kelly Reller, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005 or newsbureau@mayo.edu.


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