Enbrel May Help Treat Alzheimer's
Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug May Prompt Rapid Improvement in Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms
July 21, 2008 -- A drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid
arthritis and other immune-based conditions may also be effective at
targeting language-related Alzheimer's disease problems.
Disruption of language abilities, such as difficulty finding words to
express thoughts, is a common symptom of Alzheimer's disease.
A new study shows people with Alzheimer's disease experienced rapid
improvement in language abilities after treatment with Enbrel (etanercept). In
fact, researchers videotaped noticeable language skill improvements in
Alzheimer's patients within minutes after receiving the drug.
The small, phase two clinical trial involved only 12 people with mild to
moderate forms of Alzheimer's disease, but researchers say the results merit
further study in phase three clinical trials.
New Target for Alzheimer's Disease Treatment
Etanercept works by targeting a substance produced by the immune system
known as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). This substance is implicated
in attacking healthy tissue and causing inflammation in people with immune
system disorders, such as arthritis and certain skin
In the study, published in BMC Neurology, researchers treated 12
people with mild to moderate forms of Alzheimer's disease weekly with Enbrel
for six months. The drug is usually delivered by injection to the thigh,
abdomen, or upper arm, but in this study researchers injected the drug into the
muscles surrounding the spinal cord to deliver the drug directly to the nervous
system and reduce TNF-alpha levels in the brain.
The results showed improvements in conversational, naming, and comprehension
abilities -- and improvements in following spoken commands -- began within
minutes after injection.
Researchers say the findings may also offer new insight behind the
development of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and offer new avenues for treatment using
For example, researcher Edward Tobinick of the Institute for Neurological
Research in Los Angeles and colleagues say elevated levels of TNF-alpha in the
brain may interfere with the regulation of neural impulses controlling language
in the brain. With further study, these effects may be reversible with drugs like etanercept that target TNF-alpha.