Alzheimer’s Drug Failure: More Research Is Needed

EXPEDITION3 Drug Trial Did Not Achieve Its Goal

On November 23rd, 2016, the Alzheimer’s community received some disappointing news. Eli Lilly announced that their Phase III study, the EXPEDITION3 Alzheimer’s drug trial, did not achieve its goal. This study examined the effects of the anti-amyloid drug solanezumab on people with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, the people receiving the study drug did not demonstrate a statistically significant slowing of cognitive decline.

One of the primary hypotheses surrounding Alzheimer’s disease has to do with the abnormal protein, beta-amyloid, which forms hard clumps in between brain cells. Solanezumab, a monoclonal antibody, binds to amyloid and helps clear it from the brain and body. The failure of the EXPEDITION3 study adds to the growing evidence that by the time the person shows demonstrable clinical signs of Alzheimer’s disease, significant brain damage has already taken place. The results, however, do not mean that solanezumab won’t help people in the pre-clinical stage of the disease. Other research efforts examining solanezumab, like the A4 Study, the DIAN-TU study, and the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative are underway, but continued research is needed!

Now more than ever, research indicates that Alzheimer’s disease–like the brain–is extremely complex.

At the recent Update on Alzheimer’s Disease, presented by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Joseph Kass spoke of the many different mechanisms that may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Effective therapies may need to target more than one mechanism, including both amyloid and tau proteins, cardiovascular risk factors, insulin resistance, and neuroinflammation.

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death, and this only disease in the top 10 causes of death that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed. Research takes time, money, and manpower, but it is the only means to achieving a disease-modifying treatment. We need a continued effort at mobilizing research.

The End of Alzheimer’s Starts with You!

The Alzheimer’s Association offers several ways to get involved.

First, the Association supports TrialMatch, a free, easy-to-use clinical studies matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians with current studies. Our continuously updated database of Alzheimer’s clinical trials includes more than 250 promising clinical studies being conducted at over 700 trials sites across the country, including Houston.

advocacyDay2017 alzheimers texas

You can also get involved as a Alzheimer’s Association advocate. Both state and federal legislators need to understand the enormity of the Alzheimer’s crisis and the potential that is held in research. By advocating our officials, we can influence the funding that is allocated toward Alzheimer’s research. For example, in FY16, Congress allocated a historic $350 million dollar increase at the National Institutes of Health. Your voice and story matter and have real, collective significance in affecting the state and nation’s elected officials thinking about the importance of Alzheimer’s research. Currently, the Alzheimer’s Association is advocating for an additional $400 million for the FY17 budget.

Join us for the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association’s Texas Advocacy Day!

Please join us on this exciting day as we gather at the capitol, DRESSED IN PURPLE, to show our elected officials how many residents of Texas are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, the Alzheimer’s Association is the largest private funder of Alzheimer’s research in the world. Your donations help support scientists in the community working on the frontier of Alzheimer’s research, including basic science research that helps further understanding of the brain, the mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease, and new avenues for treatment. The funding also supports research that examines ways to improve care and access to services. All funding is peer reviewed by a vast international network of volunteer scientists and quality-assured by the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council, comprised of scholars and leaders in the fields of Alzheimer’s research and care.

So don’t lose heart, even though the results of the EXPEDITION3 trial aren’t what we wanted. The engine of research continues to chug ahead. In the meantime, the Alzheimer’s Association will continue to work alongside families, providing information, care, and support to all those affected by the disease.


When Alzheimer’s touches your life, we are here for you. Call 800.272.3900 anytime, day or night, for reliable information and support.

Julie Kutac, PhD

Professional Education & Research Specialist Dr. Julie Kutac received her BS in Molecular Biology with a minor in Theology from Texas Lutheran University, her MA in Religious Studies from Rice University, and her PhD in Medical Humanities from the University of Texas Medical Branch. Dr. Kutac's research at Rice focused upon the ethics of memory and illness narratives that captured the subjective experience of Alzheimer's disease. At the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Dr. Kutac continued to explore her interests in aging and elder care as a National Institute of Aging Pre-Doctoral Fellow with the Sealy Center on Aging. Her dissertation focused upon suffering, the elderly, and ways that the medical humanities can improve the practitioner-patient relationship. Dr. Kutac currently works as the Professional Education and Research Specialist for the Alzheimer's Association, Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter. In this role, she educates health care practitioners and liaises with the Alzheimer's Association funded scientists in the Texas Medical Center.