In Brief

Alzheimer's drug offers 'tantalising' hope for sufferers

New antibody drug aducanumab could be prescribed as a preventative medicine in the future, say scientists

A new Alzheimer's drug is being hailed a potential game changer for people with the condition.Patients treated over six months with aducanumab showed an almost complete clearance of the sticky plaques that stop brain cells communicating and which lead to memory loss and cognitive decline.

"We can potentially make a great step forward in treating Alzheimer's disease," said Professor Roger Kitsch, of the University of Zurich.The breakthrough has been hailed as the best news in Alzheimer's research in 25 years and scientists believe the drug "could be the first stepping stone to finding a cure for the, as yet, incurable condition", says the Daily Express.

Aducanumab is likely to be most effective for patients in the earliest stages of the disease or for those who have not yet begun to show symptoms, adds the Daily Telegraph.Dr Al Sandrock, of biotech company Biogen, predicted it could be used for patients with no symptoms of Alzheimer's but with amyloid plaques on the brain. "We do that with cholesterol where people don't have cardiovascular disease," he said, reports the Financial Times. Even healthy pensioners could one day be prescribed the drug to "ward off dementia", says the Daily Mail, "in much the same way as statins are given today to those at risk of heart attacks".

However, there are still several hurdles to overcome. "The two biggest barriers to the drug will now be proving that it works across more early-stage patients and dealing with the side-effects," says The Times. Those side-effects include a dangerous swelling of the brain among patients on the highest dose.

Added to that, drugs that seem promising when given to small groups of people can fail spectacularly when tested on large numbers. "Two much larger trials, recruiting 2,700 patients in 20 countries, are needed to confirm whether the tantalising signs of benefit are real," reports The Guardian.

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