Cleveland Clinic starts trial of cancer drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic are taking a small step forward in testing for the first time on people a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease—a cancer drug that rapidly removed the damaging protein implicated in the progression of the illness from the brains of mice in early trials at Case Western Reserve University.

Doctors at the Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas are recruiting patients with moderate Alzheimer’s for the first trial of the drug in human patients with the disease. The drug, called bexarotene (also known as its brand name Targretin), is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, which is a cancer of the blood that affects the skin.

The Clinic researchers are building off the work of Case neurosciences professor Gary Landreth and his former graduate student, Paige Cramer, who is currently employed at pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Last year, Landreth and Cramer published a landmark paper in the journal Science, showing that bexarotene not only quickly cleared out a protein called amyloid beta, which is both deposited in sticky plaques and circulates in the brains of mice bred to mimic the Alzheimer’s condition, but also improved memory in those mice.

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