Alzheimer’s disease vaccine abandoned

The bad news continues for the novel strategy of immunizing people against Alzheimer’s disease. Elan Corp. of Dublin now acknowledges that 15 people developed potentially dangerous brain inflammation after receiving vaccinations designed to clear their brains of the protein deposits thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease. The patients, who already had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, are recovering under physicians’ care, the company says.

Elan suspended trials of the vaccine after disclosing adverse reactions in 4 of the nearly 360 volunteers in the study (SN: 2/16/02, p. 109: Alzheimer’s vaccine trial is suspended). The vaccine, which consists primarily of the beta-amyloid protein, was intended to create an immune response that prevents the protein from accumulating into the plaques that typically mar the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The company now says it won’t resume testing of this particular vaccine. There are other immune-based options, including additional experimental vaccines using different versions of beta-amyloid, that might still lead to a safe treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, note scientists at Elan and elsewhere.

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