Extraordinary new treatment for Alzheimer's

Brain scan of an Alzheimer’s patient
Brain scan of an Alzheimer’s patientCourtesy NIH/National Institute on Aging

Doctors in California have developed a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, in which patients show tremendous improvement within minutes.

Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain which can severely impair memory, thinking and behavior. The researchers noticed that Alzheimer’s patients have very high levels of a protein called TNF, which is known to regulate brain activity. The treatment involves injecting an anti-TNF drug into the patient’s spinal fluid. The drug, Etanercept, has already been approved by the FDA for treatment of other diseases. The study involved only a small number of patients, but the strong positive results of this early test give hope that an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s could be on the horizon.

NOTE: As always when we discuss medical treatment on Science Buzz, it is important to point out – we are not doctors. We cannot give medical advice, nor should you take medical advice from anyone over the Internet. If you have questions about this treatment, you need to consult your physician.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

maureen's picture
maureen says:

I live in S. Texas with a mother that has
Alzheimer's. Anyone know where this new treatment (etanercept) is available?

posted on Sun, 01/13/2008 - 6:48pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Ask your doctor. As I understand the article, the drug is available, but it's use in treating Alzheimer's is still experimental.

posted on Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:55pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Right. It's not available as a treatment yet outside of a very, very limited trial. (The results came from a single clinic, and only a handful of patients.) And while these reports are promising, there has not yet been a controlled study for safety and efficacy.

The most telling bit, for me, is this one paragraph from a MedPageToday article on Etanercept and the recently published case report:

"Etanercept's manufacturer, Amgen, maintained a hands-off attitude toward the research. It issued a statement saying it did not endorse or support Dr. Tobinick's program. A spokeswoman said he company had no plans to conduct or fund studies on the drug's possible use in Alzheimer's disease. She said the company has determined there is not scientific justification to warrant further effort. 'We looked carefully at the data,' she said. 'Right now, we don't think it's a viable option.'"

It's telling to me that, with the huge impact in quality of life a viable Alzheimer's drug could have, not to mention the potential market, Amgen is not pursuing the research right now.

Also, the MedPageToday article contains the following footer:

"The case report had no outside funding sources. The patient paid for treatment as part of Dr. Tobinick's clinical practice.

Dr. Tobinick reported owning stock in Amgen and hods issued and pending patents on parenteral and perispinal use of etanercept for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders."

Now, the facts that the doctor holds stock in Amgen and has patents on his work with the drug don't mean that this case report isn't absolutely true. Unaffiliated researchers quoted in the article describe this as a promising avenue of research. But it will likely be a long time before etanercept becomes the standard of care for Alzheimer's, if it ever does.

posted on Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:05pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

If I read the article correctly, Etanercept has a generic equivalent. It could be that Amgen doesn't want to fund expensive studies of a drug it does not hold the rights to. Still, Liza is right, this is just one study, and a very small one at that. It will take a lot of additional research before we know if this is a valid treatment for Alzheimers, and whether or not there are any long-term side effects.

posted on Wed, 01/16/2008 - 7:05pm
Daniel's picture
Daniel says:

This is the email that was sent to my sister regarding the experimental study. You can contact Doctor Tobinick who is the person actually performing the study.

Dear XXXX,Please call our office at 310.824.6199 for further information and scheduling. Yes, we are still accepting new patients for this treatment. Further information is also available at www.nrimed.com .


Edward Tobinick MD
Lynna Sim & Lesley Lemus
Institute for Neurological Research, A Private Medical Group 100 UCLA Medical Plaza, Suites 205-210

Los Angeles, CA 90095
ph: 310/824-6199
fx: 310/824-6196

posted on Tue, 01/22/2008 - 3:12pm
steven's picture
steven says:

how do we know it wont damage surtain poeple with brain tissue problems. p.s. hi gle n I maybe 14 but I am in debate.

posted on Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:48pm
Marc's picture
Marc says:

I heard about this new treatment from a friend + business associate of mine. My mother has Alzheimers, has been on all the standard drugs. She is in our apt,as we have a full time live in caregiver. Cognitively,she is still ok, but there is a decline,memory,apathy,(very bad) severe depression, she talks,but is silent alot. She's so withdrawn,it is so sad. I live in Toronto,Canada. She has a Geriatric Psychiatrist. (He comes to see her in our home every few months) I myself am a diabetic,on a statin, I read in a medical magazine about use of statins or diabetic oral pills to treat this,as it was explained that this could be a type of Diabetes. Yet,her psychiatrist has refused input from me. I'm grasping desperate at hope. Is this new drug available in Toronto? What about another new drug, "Gleevec"?

posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 11:46pm
twila_08's picture
twila_08 says:

This is good. I know if it was me I wouldn't want to lose my memory and can't do anything about it. I would want to know my family and remember them.

Twila Turnage

posted on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 9:14am
Carlton's picture
Carlton says:

I live in Dallas, Texas and my grandmother has it badly. First they said that it was dementia, but they later diagnosed it as Alzheimer's. My grandmother seemingly went into this overnight. She was a nurse her at Baylor hospital for nealry 35 years and one night one the way home in her brand new car, she feel asleep at the wheel and crashed into 4 cars around the corner from her house. Then one night shortly after at church, she fell and hit her head. Nearing retirement, her co-workers noticed that she was having problems remembering what floor she was on to, what patient took what? My grnadfather whom is older than her in his mid 70s and she is in her mid 60s is catching hardship of keeping up with the daily routine of caring for her. Can anyone give my family and i any information on this. Ironically, after so many years of caring for others and loving her job, Baylor hospital forgot about her and her dedication to being a nurse and now she needs the help.

posted on Mon, 03/24/2008 - 3:59pm
Leah's picture
Leah says:

My mother-in-law just returned from her 6-wk treatment in L.A. & is now back at home in Oklahoma. There is a clinic in Dallas that is taking on the weekly injections which is a lot closer to home than California. My father-in-law says he notices a difference from before the treatment. We can only hope.

posted on Fri, 05/16/2008 - 2:52pm
Kelli's picture
Kelli says:

Dear Leah~ How is your mother-in-law now? Have you seen further improvement? Where in Dallas do they administer the treatments? Thanks~Kelli

posted on Tue, 12/30/2008 - 5:37pm
Hiram Kepler's picture

Wow, this is a great idea. It is wonderful to hear such a positive story about such a horrible disease.

posted on Tue, 09/23/2008 - 3:04pm
marcia's picture
marcia says:

Please someone tell me where this clinic is in Dallas for the injections for Alzheimer treatment

posted on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 9:32am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Marcia...Did you find out where in Dallas you can get treatment? I live in the Ft Worth area. My mom is in need of treatment also. Thanks...Lynn

posted on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 8:27pm
DO's picture
DO says:

How did this get posted? This kind of highly speculative and unscientific stuff just raises false hopes.

posted on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 1:48pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The purpose of Science Buzz is to discuss current topics in science. Sometimes those topics pan out; sometimes they don't. If we waited until all the evidence were in...well, it wouldn't be current anymore. We do not censor topics before-the-fact -- as long as it's science-related, we're happy to get a discussion started. I believe we included sufficient disclaimers as to the tentative nature of this finding.

posted on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 3:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You didn't -- Lisa did. Speculation about the relationship of dinosaurs to birds doesn't hurt anyone. Raising what are probaly false hope does. Even if this pans out, persons with severe case of Alzheimers won't be helped, just "teased" unfairly

posted on Fri, 01/09/2009 - 3:50pm
bella451001's picture

wow thats great to hear ...well here a lotta people i mean old people are affected by it

posted on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 11:53pm

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