Five future treatments for dementia
A cure for dementia is what most people want and scientists have made great progress in finding one. Here’s what you need to know about future treatments – some of which might be just around the corner
In a nutshell
Dementia is a complex condition with many possible causes, but what many people want to know is can dementia be cured? Finding a cure is never going to be easy, but recent developments and understanding of how the disease progresses have been encouraging. Researchers now believe an effective treatment – if not a complete cure – could be available within 10 years.
Three reasons to hope
1. In the 1970’s a war was declared on cancer which has had significant effects in developing new and powerful treatments. A similar ‘war’ was declared on dementia at the 2013 G8 Summit when dementia was finally recognised as one of the most serious medical challenges of the 21st century.
2. More money than ever before is being poured into research. The UK government has pledged to double its annual research funding to £132m by 2025.
3. World experts are coming together to pool funds and resources and share information. As a result, scientist now have a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the diseases that cause dementia than ever before.
So what could future treatments offer?
Here’s a few of the drugs and therapies that are currently being researched and developed in the fight against dementia.
1. Disease Modification Therapies (DMT)
The current drugs available to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia tackle the symptoms of the disease, but a new type of medication called Disease Modification Therapies works by tackling the disease itself and could potentially be of far more benefit. These drugs are being hailed as a ‘transformative event’ in the search for a cure. Watch out for one called Solanezumab which is currently undergoing clinical trials.
2. The diabetes connection
A drug called Liraglutide, currently used to treat type 2 Diabetes could become the first treatment to reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A £5m study is currently under way in the UK after the drug was shown to reduce the damage caused by dementia when tested on mice. It is thought that the drug could be particularly beneficial to people in the later stages of dementia.
Canadian researchers have found a way to remove toxic amyloid plaques in brain cells (which have long been associated with Alzheimer’s) by using a non- invasive form of ultrasound. Although it hasn’t been tested on humans yet – human trials are at least two years away – scientists say this could be a breakthrough which fundamentally changes our understanding of how to treat Alzheimer’s.
4. A vaccine
A new vaccine called Betabloc could halt the advance of Alzheimer’s and also repair any damage already done. The vaccine works by attacking the amyloid plaques on brain cells. The vaccine doesn’t only remove the plaques, it also restores mental function. Clinical trials are already happening.
5. A drug to ease agitation
A new drug called Brexiprazole, which could help to reduce agitation in people with moderate to severe dementia, is doing well in trials. The drug may offer a safer and more effective way to manage behaviour problems than the other anti-psychotic drugs currently on offer, and it could become available within a couple of years.
The future looks bright
Here’s what worldwide dementia experts have said recently
‘In my generation the aspiration is that by 2020 or 2025 we will find a treatment for dementia or at least the commonest cause of dementia which is Alzheimer’s disease.’
The future is bright, and there is a lot to be enthusiastic about, but we aren’t quite there yet.’
Professor Alistair Burns, NHS director for dementia.
‘We now understand much more about the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and researchers are finding ways to identify people in the earliest stages where they have the best chance of developing treatments that work.’
James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society UK
‘This research is ‘extremely exciting ‘It would not be unrealistic to say that we might see a treatment within five years.’
Harry Cayton, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Association US
‘Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a ‘cocktail’ of medications aimed at several targets, similar to current state-of-the-art treatments for many cancers and AIDS,”
Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations at the US Alzheimer’s Association.