Alicia S. Parker, MD, of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is assistant professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology and clinic director for the health science center’s Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases. The Biggs Institute, in partnership with The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is Texas’ only Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), a U.S. National Institute on Aging-Designated Center of Excellence. Parker made the following comments about a timely topic in Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
Preliminary results on a study medication in mild Alzheimer’s disease, donanemab, suggest that this treatment may slow down the rate of the symptom of memory loss. Donanemab targets the removal of amyloid protein, which is found in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The results of the Trailblazer trial were presented on May 3, 2023, at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers meeting. In this trial, the manufacturer reports that 47% of participants taking a monthly infusion of donanemab had no decline in memory over the course of a year, as compared to 29% of participants who were taking a placebo.
While this clinical effect is promising, adverse effects can be serious. Similarly to all anti-amyloid medications, side effects such as brain swelling and bleeding occur in a fraction of people taking the medicine. In the Trailblazer trial, three people out of 1,700 participants died of side effects related to this medication. To maximize safety, the patient eligibility criteria was very selective — participants could only have mild memory loss, minimal to no symptoms and a low risk of bleeding. The South Texas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) is a site of the Trailblazer trial, which is ongoing. Enrollment is closed nationally. Donanemab is currently available to participants already enrolled in the Trailblazer trial.
Results from the Trailblazer study are not yet independently peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal. Further details regarding efficacy and safety of donanemab will be presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in July. This medication would not be clinically prescribed until evaluation regarding its approval and insurance coverage with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Center for Medicare Services have been completed.
We at the Glenn Biggs Institute and South Texas ADRC are excited to learn these preliminary results. It may be that this medication fits within a comprehensive treatment plan for Alzheimer’s disease in the future, along with medications targeting other aspects of the underlying pathophysiology.
To inquire about clinical trials available at the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, please call patient navigator Melissa Zamora at 210-450-9742.
Upcoming on June 7: Texas Public Radio’s Think Science: Dementia in South Texas. The event is live from UT Health San Antonio and parking and registration are free. For information, visit the Glenn Biggs Institute website!