Immunotherapy, Antibodies Can Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

After years of failures and billions of dollars lost, pharmaceutical companies are zeroing in on a new approach to treat Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Research now is focused on removing deadly protein accumulations in the brain. Ultimately, the goal is to prevent these killer proteins from accumulating in the first place.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is set to begin a clinical trial that will test the safety and efficacy of a new vaccine delivered nasally intended to prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The trial comes after 20 years of research led by Howard L. Weiner, MD, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the Brigham.

“The launch of the first human trial of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease is a remarkable milestone,” said Weiner. “Over the last two decades, we’ve amassed preclinical evidence suggesting the potential of this nasal vaccine for AD. If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s, and it could also be given early to help prevent Alzheimer’s in people at risk.”

The vaccine is a form of immunotherapy. It uses the immune modulator Protollin agent that stimulates the immune system. Protollin is composed of proteins derived from bacteria. It has been used safely in humans as an adjuvant for other vaccines. Protollin activates white blood cells in the lymph nodes to migrate to the brain to help purge beta amyloid plaques (prions) from all regions of the brain. Beta-amyloid plaques are one of the mechanisms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

If successful, the drug could help treat the symptoms of all forms of prion disease, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

“For 20 years, there has been growing evidence that the immune system plays a key role in eliminating beta amyloid. This vaccine harnesses a novel arm of the immune system to treat AD,” said Tanuja Chitnis, MD, professor of neurology at hospital and lead investigator of the trial. “Research in this area has paved the way for us to pursue a whole new avenue for potentially treating not only AD, but also other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The clinical trial will be administered to 16 volunteers from the Ann Romney Center. Participants are between 60 and 85 years of age with early, symptomatic AD. Participants must be in good general health with no disease expected to interfere with the study and have had an amyloid-positive PET scan. Participants will receive two doses of the nasal vaccine one week apart. I-Mab Biopharma and Jiangsu Nhwa Pharmaceutical developed Protollin. The companies are funding the clinical trial.

“We are thrilled to see Protollin approved to advance into clinical trials after many years of pioneering work, and we are honored to contribute our expertise in the global effort to develop novel therapies for this devastating disease,” said Dr. Jingwu Zang, founder, chairman and director of I-Mab.

“If clinical trials show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and it could help prevent Alzheimer’s in people at risk,” Weiner said. “The immune system plays a very important role in all neurologic diseases. Other drugs work by giving an antibody — they infuse it into the bloodstream to reach the brain. This vaccine uses the body’s own immune system to fight brain disease.”

Alzheimer's disease treatment

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Gary Chandler is a prion expert. He is the CEO of Crossbow Communications, author of several books and producer of documentaries about health and environmental issues around the world. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.