New Clinical Trial Will Test Cancer Drug as Alzheimer's Treatment
The following is a press release issued by the ADDF:
NEW YORK (September 29, 2016) – The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) announces a $2.1 million grant awarded to R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD, of Georgetown University Medical Center to conduct a phase II clinical trial of low-dose nilotinib (marketed as Tasigna® for use as a cancer therapy) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Nilotinib is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of adult chronic myeloid leukemia. In preclinical studies conducted by Georgetown researchers, nilotinib reduced cognitive impairment by targeting two of the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s—neuroinflammation and misfolded proteins. Nilotinib triggers a process (called autophagy) that removes the toxic proteins tau and beta-amyloid from the brain before they accumulate into plaques and tangles.
Dr. Turner, co-medical director of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Translational Neurotherapeutics Program (TNP) and director of the Georgetown Memory Disorders Program, says, “By stimulating the brain’s normal autophagic process, which clears out these misfolded proteins in cells, we hope to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. In fact, nilotinib may be a first—a broad-spectrum anti-neurodegenerative drug that targets all misfolded protein aggregates that accumulate in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. By targeting both amyloid and tau, this study may point the way to a new strategy in Alzheimer’s disease treatment.”
The preclinical research was conducted by Charbel Moussa, MBBS, PhD, scientific and clinical research director for Georgetown’s TNP, who explains, “Nilotinib seems to activate the cell’s garbage disposal machine, reduce plaques and tangles and reverse cognitive decline in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. We hope that this trial will clarify the effects of nilotinib in Alzheimer’s patients.” Moussa will be a co-investigator on the Alzheimer’s trial.
The trial is expected to start this year and will include 42 patients, with half randomized to receive an escalating dose of nilotinib, while the other half receives a placebo. The primary objectives of the study will be to test the drug’s safety and tolerability and to measure whether nilotinib reduces inflammation and the presence of beta-amyloid and tau in spinal fluid. Dr. Turner and his colleagues in the Georgetown Memory Disorders Program will also perform cognitive and functional abilities tests.
Dr. Howard Fillit, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the ADDF, says: “The ADDF is proud to support a clinical trial that holds such promise for Alzheimer’s patients. This funding is part of our wider initiative to use the knowledge gained from cancer research to advance effective treatments for Alzheimer’s.”
The ADDF’s initiative “Learning from Cancer to Advance Treatments for Neurodegenerative Diseases” launched in 2015 with a conference held in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences. Its goal is both to develop new therapies and test existing cancer therapies for their potential in treating Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the nilotinib trial at Georgetown, this initiative includes funding for drug development projects at Oryzon Genomics, Rodin Therapeutics, and Yuma Therapeutics.
(Please note that Dr. Moussa is listed as an inventor on a patent application filed by Georgetown University related to the use of nilotinib and other tyrosine kinase inhibitors for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.)
About R. Scott Turner, MD, PhD
Dr. Turner is Professor of Neurology, co-medical director of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Translational Neurotherapeutics Program and Director of the Memory Disorders Program (MDP). The mission of the MDP is to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by conducting innovative research, educating and training healthcare professionals and the public on research advances, and offering state-of-the-art clinical care. Dr. Turner earned a doctorate in pharmacology and a medical degree at Emory University and completed his residency and a post-doctoral fellowship in neurology at the University of Pennsylvania.
About the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation
Founded in 1998 by Leonard A. and Ronald S. Lauder, the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) is dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease. The ADDF is the only public charity solely focused on funding the development of drugs for Alzheimer’s, employing a venture philanthropy model to support research in academia and the biotech industry. Through the generosity of its donors, the ADDF has awarded nearly $100 million to fund more than 500 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs and clinical trials in 18 countries. To learn more, please visit: http://www.alzdiscovery.org/.