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Medicine Science

Skin Cancer Drug Reverses Alzheimer's Symptoms In Mice 94

Posted by timothy
from the with-very-few-exceptions-a-mouse-is-not-a-human-being dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A skin cancer drug may rapidly reverse pathological, cognitive and memory deterioration associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to new research published on Thursday. Bexarotene, a drug that is currently used to combat T cell lymphoma, appeared to reverse plaque buildup and improve memory in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's disease by reducing levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that cause mental deficits in Alzheimer's disease."
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Skin Cancer Drug Reverses Alzheimer's Symptoms In Mice

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  • by bhcompy (1877290) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:25PM (#38999751)
    but I forgot what we were talking about
  • Toxilogical Info (Score:5, Informative)

    by Draconi (38078) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:26PM (#38999779)

    RTECS No: not available
    Acute toxicity: oral toxicity (LD50): >1500 mg/kg (rat); >720 mg/kg (dog)
    Dermal NOEL: 0.01% (rat)
    Primary irritant effect:
    On the skin: not known; may be an irritant; exposure may exacerbate the deleterious effects of sunlight
    On the eye: not known; may be an irritant
    Ingestion: may cause effects similar to hypervitaminosis A including headache, nausea, vomiting, lip inflammation, mucous membrane dryness, joint pain, scaly skin, and hyperlipidemia

    ---

    Yeah. I'd still take it.

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:42PM (#39000019) Homepage Journal

      Yeah. I'd still take it.

      Me too, if it keeps me from suffering the inevitable loss of cognizance (Alzheimer's runs strong in my family).

      The thought of no longer having control over my own thought processes scares the living bejesus out of me.

      • Re:Toxilogical Info (Score:5, Informative)

        by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:14PM (#39000415)

        Hey, if you have a lot of wanderers in your family, check out Project Lifesaver. [projectlifesaver.org]

        They have a wrist-mounted transmitter that lets police and caregivers (who have the receivers) find wandering patients quickly and safely. 100% success rate.

        I wrote the code for the transmitters; it was done so well that they didn't need me anymore. (They got Microchip to program them by the reel.)

        • Hey, if you have a lot of wanderers in your family, check out Project Lifesaver. [projectlifesaver.org]

          They have a wrist-mounted transmitter that lets police and caregivers (who have the receivers) find wandering patients quickly and safely. 100% success rate.

          I definitely will, thanks a lot.

          I wrote the code for the transmitters; it was done so well that they didn't need me anymore. (They got Microchip to program them by the reel.)

          Same thing happened to me at one of my old sysadmin jobs; they hired me because the last guy couldn't distinguish telephony (or anything else, for that matter) from his own ass, but as soon as I had everything running ship-shape, they sent me down the road.

          Lesson learned, for sure.

          • Re:Toxilogical Info (Score:5, Interesting)

            by silverspell (1556765) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:49PM (#39000857)

            Lesson learned, for sure.

            Out of curiosity, what was the lesson?

            (I'm not being a wiseass BTW. Just wondering how that experience has changed your behavior since then -- mainly, how you've protected yourself from having the same thing happen again, while still doing first-rate work in an efficient manner.)

            • The lesson is: never try.

            • Re:Toxilogical Info (Score:5, Informative)

              by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:58PM (#39000975) Homepage Journal

              The lesson is, when you autmate and make things more effeicent, never tell anyone.

              Years ago I went to work some place, on a team of 12 support people. Because they way there system works, it took 15 minutes after the code to get all the data into their varies systems.

              I wrote a script that did it in 25 seconds.
              So, the didn't need as many people, so the let me go.

              I'm standing there saying "Why are you letting go the guy who improves that's? Let one of those people go who sit there and do as little as possible? They mumble some nonsense.

              • I have no idea how they are now, but back in the '90s when I worked for Bell Labs, they had a policy where if you improved efficiency to the point where you eliminated your job, you were guaranteed a new one.

            • Lesson learned, for sure.

              Out of curiosity, what was the lesson?

              (I'm not being a wiseass BTW. Just wondering how that experience has changed your behavior since then -- mainly, how you've protected yourself from having the same thing happen again, while still doing first-rate work in an efficient manner.)

              The lesson is that one should not let ones excellence and work ethic overshadow ones need for income.

              Put more simply, never do such a great job that you curb your own usefulness.

              That, or just build time-bombs into every script you write, that way there's always something that needs "fixing." Anyone who claims that's an inappropriate attitude to have towards a job is either A) in management (and thus, by association, a moron), or B) not good enough at what they do.

              • The lesson is that one should not let ones excellence and work ethic overshadow ones need for income.

                I've lost my job several times. There was that one, where I coded myself out of the job. At a co-op job in school, we ran out of work so I ended up leaving that one early too. (Still got credit.) Before school, I was hired as a temp to sort out some documents. I got it cased in two weeks after being warned that I was "working myself out of a job". I also had a job in sales to get through school. I sold lots more than anyone else and there was a noticeable bump in turnover when I was working. Neverth

      • by Tablizer (95088) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:25PM (#39001291) Homepage Journal

        The thought of no longer having control over my own thought processes scares the living bejesus out of me.

        Let me tell ya, marriage is not for you then

    • by Anonymous Coward

      RTECS No: not available
      Acute toxicity: oral toxicity (LD50): >1500 mg/kg (rat); >720 mg/kg (dog)
      Dermal NOEL: 0.01% (rat)
      Primary irritant effect:
      On the skin: not known; may be an irritant; exposure may exacerbate the deleterious effects of sunlight
      On the eye: not known; may be an irritant
      Ingestion: may cause effects similar to hypervitaminosis A including headache, nausea, vomiting, lip inflammation, mucous membrane dryness, joint pain, scaly skin, and hyperlipidemia

      ---

      Yeah. I'd still take it.

      Ask that of an Alzheimer's patient. From what I've seen, if god forbid I have it, that drug - assuming it does what it promise to do - doesn't look so bad.

      And if it would make me less of a burden on my family, it would make that drug look even better.

      And I'm sure those effects could be managed. After all, there has to be some sort of procesure if they're using it now for cancer patients.

      • by DragonTHC (208439)

        My mom was diagnosed a year ago.

        I just emailed the article to her doctor.

        As with anything in dose facit venenum

        • by rednip (186217)
          As it's already approved for human use, off label is certainly a possibility, however another article I read said the mice received a 'mega-dose', so the effective amount might be too much for people. One good thing is that it's already has a decade of use and is available as a generic, but I suspect that the 'spot market' will get really hot quickly.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Generally the easiest way to control those side effects if by decreasing the doseage. I see no reason to believe that the optimal dose for Alzheimers would be the same as for cancer. I'd give reasonable odds that the dosage would be substantially lower. And from the report on the mice it might not be a medicine that's continually needed. If it clears away the plaques, then you might not need to continue to take it. Or might be able to get by with a SUBSTANTAILLY reduced dosage.

        The nice thing is that it

    • Re:Toxilogical Info (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tibit (1762298) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:59PM (#39000221)

      Considering that it's a cancer drug, I say: meh, it's not bad at all. Chemo usually makes you toxic enough that others are not allowed to touch you for crying out loud, you have to wear warning tags! You're taking chemo at levels that produce acute toxicity: that's normal dosage, duh. This drug is a walk in the park, and given how bad Alzheimer's is, I'd take it without blinking an eye if it worked on humans and I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

    • Re:Toxilogical Info (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Guppy (12314) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:04PM (#39000281)

      Ingestion: may cause effects similar to hypervitaminosis A

      Because it binds to retinoid receptors. The news summaries circulating are a little mis-leading. It's not exactly a "skin cancer" per say, but rather skin manifestations of certain kinds of leukemia. The drug treats certain types of leukemia by forcing the cells to complete differentiation.

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      Interesting that a skin cancer drug is a skin irritant.
    • by munozdj (1787326)
      So the effects would be similar to taking isotretioin? I had a Roaccutane therapy for two years and, though it was unconfortable, it was manageable. IMHO, the benefits outweigh by far the risks, if it's cancer or Alzheimer's.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:36PM (#38999941)

    Yay! We may still see a lot of new Sir Terry Pratchett's books in the future! His pal, who speaks in caps, can wait for him a little longer, that's for sure.

  • Repurposing drugs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kodiaktau (2351664) on Friday February 10, 2012 @05:42PM (#39000023) Journal

    This is one of those instances where I wonder if the drug repurposing is good or bad. The side effects [nih.gov] seem to be typical, but as the article points out:

    Experts said that the results were promising, but noted that in the past successful drugs in mice often failed to work in people.

    So what I am trying to figure out is this an instance where Pfizer or someone else is backing the study. It looks like Easi [cleveland.com] isn't backing this but is someone else backing the work trying to keep a drug repurposed.

    As I think about this I also wonder what happens to the plaque that is removed...so is it reabsorbed into the body?

    Regardless, I think this is definately something useful and helpful if the human studies pan out.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I was also interested in what happens to the plaque. also ive read that there is evidence that the evolutionary purpose of the plaques may be to bind to toxins such as heavy metals (or aluminium). if the tangles of plaque can be broken up what happens to the toxins they bind? if the bodies defense mechanism in this case is more harmful than the original problem perhaps this can be beneficial if used with digression.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When deciding whether to use any medical treatment it's important to evaluate the risk of treatment versus the risk of living with the disease. Given that the disease is Alzheimer's and the risk is losing your mind I'd say most people would be willing to take a fairly risky treatment to avoid that.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You would hope that the FDA could fast track human trials, and get really sick volunteers who waive the right to sue. We need human guinea pigs to be test subjects in order to find cures and advance medicine.

        I know I would do this if I had a choice between experimental drug and slow death by brain dissolving.

    • Are you kidding me? This is the equivalent of a miracle if the protein works in humans as it does in mice, the holy grail of Alzeimer's research. One thing to be able to stop the spread of it, totally unexpected to be able to reverse the damage.

      This is great thinking and research to associate this cancer drug with Alzeimer's and find this result. My hat's off to them.

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      This is one of those instances where I wonder if the drug repurposing is good or bad.

      Yeah, the last time someone tried to repurpose a drug for Alzheimer's intelligent apes took over the planet...

    • by hraefn (627340)

      The patents appear to begin expiring this year... I am suspicious. The current drug is very likely a big money-maker, and generic equivalents are usually dramatically cheaper/lower-margin.

      Appears someone has already applied for first-to-file exclusivity. [banpharm.com]

  • Fingers crossed. The drug is pretty expensive but nursing homes are even more so... it will be huge if a bunch of people walk out of there.

    http://thomsonreuters.com/content/science/pdf/ls/pharma_matters/movers_shakers-cwp-en_issue17.pdf [thomsonreuters.com] shows the patent expiration as April 22, 2012, July 14, 2015, and October 5, 2016. I don't know what that means for an actual generic becoming available.

  • What will we do with super-intelligent mice?

  • by mykepredko (40154) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:15PM (#39000427) Homepage

    Lots of outlets are publishing this, one of the more interesting ones was CNN's: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/09/health/us-cancer-drug-alzheimers/index.html?hpt=he_c2 [cnn.com]

    Check out the quote: "We've fixed Alzheimer's in mice lots of times, so we need to move forward expeditiously but cautiously."

    So, would it be safe to say that Alzheimer's in mice is different from that in humans (on some level) so you might want to wait a bit before overdosing on Skin Cancer meds?

    myke

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sometimes it's not so much that the drugs that alleviate AD in mice don't do that in humans also, but that they have nasty side effects in humans that aren't tolerable.

      IIRC, there was a process not too long ago that reversed dementia in mice, and also in field trials in humans, but led to significant brain hemorrhaging as well during the trials, so it was stopped immediately and eventually shelved.

      Hopefully this drug won't have the same side effect problems, but I think it's part of the difficulty in moving

      • by HiThere (15173)

        This drug is currently used as a cancer treatment. So I don't think you need to worry about "brain hemmoraging", etc. But mice do have a slightly different hormonal system, so it's not guaranteed that something that works in mice will work in people. (E.g., it might be degraded too soon to do the job. Or maybe it can't get throught the blood/brain barrier.) But there's a reasonable chance.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Lots of outlets are publishing this, one of the more interesting ones was CNN's: http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/09/health/us-cancer-drug-alzheimers/index.html?hpt=he_c2 [cnn.com]

      Check out the quote: "We've fixed Alzheimer's in mice lots of times, so we need to move forward expeditiously but cautiously."

      So, would it be safe to say that Alzheimer's in mice is different from that in humans (on some level) so you might want to wait a bit before overdosing on Skin Cancer meds?

      myke

      Once they've done the basic "this probably isn't going to kill you in the next 5 years and stands a good chance of treating (curing?) your alzheimers disease" testing, I bet you'll get a long queue of people lining up to try it. I know I would. The drug would have to have some pretty major failings to give a worse 5 year outlook than alzheimers disease itself.

      • by Cruciform (42896)

        After watching my grandmother die of it I know I'd opt for the drug, even with dangerous side effects.
        The other option is a cannister of nitrogen and a room sealed with duct tape.

        I'm sure as hell not letting the disease take me.

  • painful advances (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ffflala (793437) on Friday February 10, 2012 @06:17PM (#39000449)
    My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago. It is simply brutal to see what this disease does to the people you love. But given the inevitable outcome of Alzheimer's, I'll grasp at any straw I can find if it presents some remote hope of a different outcome. This kind of perspective can't help but make one feel as if you're vulnerable to hucksters. There have been similar claims about more dubious Alzheimer's treatments, such as coconut oil, but when it comes down to it my approach is "Will it kill him or hurt him? If not, then let's try it, what have we got to lose."

    The human testing and approval process for treating Alzheimer's with bexarotene will simply take too long to be of any benefit to him. I want to get a physician to approve this medication for the off-label use for my father, so we can try it on him.

    I hope it is not reckless nor irresponsible to see if I can use my father as a sort of non-controlled subject for this study. But it seems that I have the choice between (1) risking a negative, possibly fatal or crippling, reaction for a remote chance at reversing a fatal, painful disease, or (2) waiting responsibly for the gears of formal human medical approval turn, test, find that this works, and approve prescribing it for patients. What kind of a choice is that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is already approved for use in humans. You can find a doctor who will prescribe it off-label. I'd do it in a heartbeat, as none of the side effects even register on the scale of horror that is Alzheimer's.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      There have been similar claims about more dubious Alzheimer's treatments, such as coconut oil, but when it comes down to it my approach is "Will it kill him or hurt him? If not, then let's try it, what have we got to lose."

      You do need to be a little cautious though. $99.95 for 1-week treatment of snake^H^H^H^H^Hcoconut oil might not send you broke, but many people have spent tens of thousands of dollars on cancer and HIV treatments that were bogus.

      There's also the risk that someone might use snakeoil treatment instead of mainstream treatment, although given that there really isn't any effective mainstream treatment for alzheimers yet that's not so much of a risk.

    • The problem is at what dosage? The CNN article described it as a "mega-dose", so who knows if the normal human dosage (300mg/day) for skin cancer treatment is enough. The drug is quite expensive; the Canada mail order sites are quoting about $20 per 75mg pill so that would be $80 per day just for the normal dose.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        The article also said that it worked extremely rapidly. In this case I'd play safe and use half the recommended dosage for cancer. This would probably act more slowly, but it would minimize the side effects, and it's not like beta-amyloid plaques are going to evolve resistance.

        Since the plaques build up very slowly, clearing them away slowly is probably safer than trying to remove them all quickly.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      That's one thing I don't understand about the over-cautious multi-year FDA testing process. Sure it's fine to be cautious given lesser conditions with drugs that are much stronger and unknown.

      But for pete's sake, not only is it KNOWN what this drug does, but like you say, the condition is so horrendous that it's insane to do anything EXCEPT make it freely available right away for this condition. That would apply even if the drug's effects on people were unknown. It's completely ridiculous.

      Anyway, my b
      • The testing process to approve a drug for a new use is easier than to approve a drug initially. There are 2 main aspects to the testing process: first determining the damage the drug does (Phase 1 and 2 trials), second determining that the drug works and how effectively it does so (phases 2 and 3). For repurposing a drug you still need to run the phase 2 and 3 trials. The phase 3 trials are the most expensive of the 3. This is to prevent fraud.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is not a troll, I'm trying to help. I recommend you read the Directives for Human Experimentation [nih.gov] and discuss them with your father's doctor before you actually begin an experimental treatment. If you can convince yourself you're in compliance with these directives (called the Nuremburg Code, how's that for a Godwin) then you'll feel better having thought them through; and if you can't convince yourself you're in compliance, then you may avoid a mistake.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is purely media and not real life, but a central plot line in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1318514/) was testing cutting edge Alzheimer's medication without approval, and the consequences (obviously, perhaps overstated, but who knows).

      I had a dear family member recently pass who had Alzheimer's and dementia. I'm sorry to hear about your father, and his pain, and you and your families' pain. I understand the frustration of hearing about possible solutions and not seeing

  • Maybe somebody needs to connect the people who discovered this with the folks at the Taub Institute and Harvard as mentioned in this previous Slashdot article - "Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered" [slashdot.org]. My grandfather (RIP), one of the smartest people I knew and loved dearly, suffered at the hands of Alzheimer's/dementia. I am not a scientist with enough knowledge to make a difference here, but I sure wish I could do something other than donate $$ to the researchers to help us win this battle. I'm j

  • Tau protein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frans Faase (648933) on Friday February 10, 2012 @07:56PM (#39001647) Homepage
    Just a week ago, the Slashdot item Alzheimer's Transmission Pathway Discovered [slashdot.org] reported that Alzheimer was caused by the spread of the tau protein gone wrong. How is this to be interpretted in the view of the above new item?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cause vs symptoms. The tau protein may be responsible for the beta-amyloid plaques, and the cancer drug makes the body dissolve said plaques.

      To compare: a bunch of things can cause fever, but ibuprofen will reduce the body temperature in most cases.

    • by TBerben (1061176)
      Unfortunately, I don't have access to my lecture notes at this moment and I can't access any literature (my university VPN is down for maintenance), but from a course on the molecular defects underlying diseases I remember there was some interaction between amyloid beta and tau. I don't believe the precise nature of this interaction is known or whether amyloid beta defects cause tau tangles or vice versa (or none of the above). So both this article and the one you mentioned may be correct.
  • McCain picked Sarah Palin after skin cancer treatments.

  • We already know that keytones have an ameliorating affect on Alzheimer's. This is because brain cells seem to have trouble absorbing gluclose, but they can get energy from keytones, which they can still absorb. So this skin cancer drug, may help brain cells absorb glucose, or it helps convert something to keytones, or it itself is made of keytones and is nourishing the brain.

    Eat your coconut oil!

    • You mean all I have to do is get my grandparents to spend more time punching digits on the phone?

      Spelling snark aside, I'd love to see support for this claim (ketones improve Alzheimer's symptoms) from any source that isn't trying to sell us coconut oil.

  • > appeared to reverse plaque buildup and improve memory
    > in the brains of mice with Alzheimer's disease by reducing
    > levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain that cause mental
    > deficits in Alzheimer's disease

    Wait, what did the study show? Did it show A) that Bexarotene improved memory in mice or B) that Bexarotene reduced levels of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of mice? These are most emphatically not the same thing, unless some extremely recent study that I'm not aware of has shown C)
    • by sjames (1099)

      RTFA!

      Investigators said that after treatment, the mice made significant improvements in nest building, maze performance and remembering electrical shocks.

      So, in other words, A.

      So the remaining question is does it work the same way in humans. We don't know, but it would seem reasonable to fast track the trials since safety is established and we know the untreated outcome is universally tragic.

      • by jonadab (583620)
        > RTFA!

        YMBNH.

        > So the remaining question is does it work the same way in humans.

        If the mice showed actual cognitive improvement, I'm sure someone is already thinking about a study involving humans. Whether they'll do that straight away or do another couple of animal studies first, I don't know (for a drug already approved in humans for other indications one would imagine the former, but you never know) but in any case I am certain they're already thinking about how the human study might go.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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