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Bexarotene: Cancer Drug Could Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease


A number of drugs could help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, acting like statins for the brain, scientists say.

In experiments on worms, University of Cambridge researchers identified drugs which prevented the very first step towards brain cell death.

They now want to match up drugs with specific stages of the disease.

According to experts, it was important to find out if these drugs could work safely in humans.

Statins are taken by people to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and the Cambridge research team says its work may have unearthed a potential “neurostatin” to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

Rather than treating the symptoms of the disease, a neurostatin could be used as a preventative measure to stop the disease appearing in the first place.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

The cancer drug bexarotene, for example, was found to stop the first step which leads to the death of brain cells in worms genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

In previous trials in humans, researchers tested the drug at a later stage of the disease to see if it would clear amyloid plaques from the brain but the trials were unsuccessful.

Writing in Science Advances, Prof. Michele Vendruscolo, senior study author from the University of Cambridge, said the research team wanted to find out more about the mechanics of every stage of the disease’s development.

“The body has a variety of natural defenses to protect itself against neurodegeneration, but as we age, these defenses become progressively impaired and can get overwhelmed.

“By understanding how these natural defenses work, we might be able to support them by designing drugs that behave in similar ways.”