Brain Sciences


Alzheimer’s drug offers hope for patients

30 November 2022

Breakthrough results from a clinical trial, based on early research by Professor John Hardy (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), show that a drug slows cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, paving the way for new treatments.

Alzheimer's drug trial

The results of the phase three trial, published in the New England of Journal of Medicine, show that the drug lecanemab works by reducing toxic plaques in the brain known as amyloids. Professor Hardy first highlighted the role of amyloids 30 years ago and his work has shaped our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease ever since.

When given to patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, lecanemab not only removed amyloid from patients’ brains but slowed cognitive decline by about 27% over 18 months.

Professor Hardy hailed the breakthrough as ‘the beginning of the end’ of the search for Alzheimer’s treatments.

Commenting on the trial results, he said:

“This trial is an important first step, and I truly believe it represents the beginning of the end. The amyloid theory has been around for 30 years so this has been a long time coming. It’s fantastic to receive this confirmation that we’ve been on the right track all along, as these results convincingly demonstrate, for the first time, the link between removing amyloid and slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Professor Bart De Strooper (UK Dementia Research Institute and UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) said:

“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, and we still have a lot to learn about the underlying causes… The overall conclusion is extremely positive. This trial proves that Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. I hope we will start to see a reversal in the chronic underfunding of dementia research. I look forward to a future where we treat this and other neurodegenerative diseases with a battery of medications adapted to the individual needs of our patients.”

Professor Rob Howard (UCL Psychiatry) said: 

“At long last, we have gained some traction on this most terrible and feared of diseases and the years of research and investment in dementia have finally paid off. It feels momentous and historic. This will encourage real optimism that dementia can be beaten and one day even cured.”

Professor Nick Fox (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) said: 

“This is a very important result and paper… I believe it confirms a new era of disease modification for Alzheimer’s disease. An era that comes after more than 20 years of hard work on anti-amyloid immunotherapies.”

In an article published today in the Guardian, Professor Jonathan Schott (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology) said: 

“It is a remarkable achievement that we now have drugs that have an impact on key underlying biological processes and produce at least some beneficial effects on cognition. As a minimum it establishes that Alzheimer’s is potentially treatable – and perhaps one day even preventable, if we could identify and treat individuals who might benefit before symptoms start.”