Disappointment as phase 3 trials for Alzheimer's drug ganteneurumab show no clinical benefit

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In a press release today, pharmaceutical company Roche announced results from its phase 3 trials of immunotherapy drug gantenerumab. The results show that the drug failed to slow cognitive decline in people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.

Prof Bart De Strooper, UK DRI Director, comments on the news:

“The ganteneurumab results released today by Roche, are disappointing after the positive headlines from another Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab, in September.

There are currently four immunotherapy drugs in clinical trials that remove amyloid plaques, which all function differently. We had predicted before that gantenerumab would likely be the least effective so it’s not surprising that the outcomes have not been positive.

In order to see clinical benefits from amyloid treatments we must rely on how efficiently and quickly that drug can reduce amyloid plaques in the brain. If it takes more than half of the time of the trial to get the amyloid plaque levels below a threshold, then there is little chance for benefits in the short time that remains. It takes years for the symptoms of dementia to develop, it is unlikely that real positive clinical outcomes related to cognition will arise immediately. This also implies that the earlier in the disease trajectory you treat, the more chance one has to see real clinical benefits.

Although today’s news isn’t what we, and the millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s, would have hoped for, the lecanemab data gives hope and we look forward to seeing the full data including the side effects in due course. Every trial teaches us more about what the ‘right drug, right patient and right time’ looks like, and how we should test this. I remain hopeful for more positive news for the field in the near future and would like to recall that other fields of medicine also see more failures than successes. Trials are the way to find out what the best drugs are.

Article published: 14 November 2022
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