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Cancer Tools Help Roche Push Ahead With Alzheimer's Drug
Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 11:41 AM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: Business Week) - Roche Holding AG is focusing part of its pipeline on the riskiest area of drug development: the human brain.

The Swiss drugmaker had its last top-selling brain therapy when Valium revolutionized anxiety treatment in the 1960s. Now Roche is betting it can use the tools that have since made it the world's biggest maker of cancer drugs to penetrate the "black box" of Alzheimer's and autism, CEO Severin Schwan said.


Eli Lilly and Pfizer plan to announce results for Alzheimer's drugs that attack the same protein as Roche's experimental drug, called gantenerumab.


[Roche] is also running clinical trials on treatments for depression and autism. Meanwhile, the field of Alzheimer's, where four of Roche's 10 brain drugs in patient testing are concentrated, is littered with failures.


The last new therapy for Alzheimer's was Namenda, a medicine from New York-based Forest Laboratories. Namenda, like all other Alzheimer's drugs on the market, addresses symptoms without slowing the disease's march through the brain.


Lilly's solanezumab, which is similar to Roche's Alzheimer's drug, has at most a one-in-five chance of success, according to anaylysts at Sanford C.Bernstein Lltd. Lilly said on April 25 that one final-stage trial of the drug had finished that month, with a second slated for completion in June. The first look at the results could come in July.


Both the Lilly and Roche medicines target a reduction in beta amyloid, a protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Elan are also expecting to release results in the third quarter for a drug to target beta amyloid, bapineuzumab, and have said they'll seek regulators' approval by the end of the year if it's successful.


The cloud hanging over all three drugs is the earlier failure of a Lilly drug called semagacestat, which tried to zap beta amyloid by inhibiting an enzyme called gamma secretase that's tied to the production of the protein. The pill actually worsened patients' ability to do day-to-day activities, Lilly said in 2010. The company gave up on the medicine that year. Lilly has said that semagacestat failed not because beta amyloid isn't the right target, but because gamma secretase wasn't the right way to go after the protein.


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