September 23, 2019
As a lifelong Alzheimer’s researcher, Dorene Rentz sees many brain scans with amyloid plaques, a telltale sign of the disease that ravages the brains and memories of its victims.
But there’s one scan she’s unable to see: that of her husband, Ray Berggren.
Never did she think that one day her 73-year-old husband would be part of a clinical trial she helped design, whose overall cognitive outcomes she will eventually help analyze.
“I’ve never been able to look at any of his data, nor do I want to,” says Dr. Rentz, a 68-year-old neurology professor at Harvard Medical School. “I don’t even know if he’s on the drug or not.”
Dr. Rentz is one of the researchers involved with the massive A4 (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s) study. A4 is testing whether a drug called solanezumab can slow memory loss in people with elevated levels of amyloid plaque in their brains. They may experience no memory loss yet, or report signs of cognitive decline but pass cognitive tests.
Amyloid is a protein produced in the brain that can build up and form plaque deposits that researchers believe play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Eli Lilly & Co. makes solanezumab, which failed in previous trials in patients already diagnosed with symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers hope that by intervening earlier and at a higher dose, they may have success this time.
The randomized controlled trial spans 4.5 years, during which participants get infusions of either solanezumab or a placebo. There are 1,169 participants, all of them 65 to 85 years old.
Mr. Berggren is one of them.