Another failure in search for treatment to slow Alzheimer's

INDIANAPOLIS -- An experimental treatment for Alzheimer's failed again in a widely anticipated study, disappointing many who had hoped drugmaker Eli Lilly had found a way to slow the progression of the mind-robbing disease.

The drug did not work better than a placebo treatment in a study of more than 2,100 people with mild Alzheimer's, the company announced Wednesday.

"We're incredibly saddened by the news," said Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association, who was not involved in Lilly's research. "There was a lot of hope for this avenue, this approach."

Alzheimer's experts had modest expectations for the drug, called solanezumab. It already had failed in two large studies in people with mild to moderate forms of the disease. But combined results suggested the drug might work for those with the mildest symptoms.

Lilly started another study, testing monthly infusions of the drug for 18 months in those patients.

The drug binds to a protein called amyloid that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The drug clears the protein from the brain before it can clump together to form a sticky plaque between nerve cells. Researchers think the protein triggers the degenerative disease, which impairs memory and thought.

Lilly's drug still is being studied in two other major tests. One involves patients with a rare, inherited form of Alzheimer's, and the other is a prevention trial of people who have no symptoms but have deposits of amyloid in their brain as seen on scans.

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