Trial finds promising treatment for dementia

Tuesday, 10 May, 2022

Trial finds promising treatment for dementia

A Monash University-led study has found a new treatment that stabilises escalating behavioural issues and reverses brain shrinkage due to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

It is said to be the second clinical trial to show that the drug sodium selenate may be slowing cognitive decline and neurodegenerative damage that is the hallmark of these conditions.

Behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) can occur in people as young as 35 years of age. It is characterised by behavioural disturbances and personality changes and can be highly disruptive and distressing for both patients and their families. There are no treatments or cures for bvFTD and typical survival is 5–7 years from diagnosis.

The Phase 1 trial — led by Dr Lucy Vivash, from Monash University’s Department of Neuroscience, and said to be the only one in Australia targeting this type of bvFTD, and one of a handful worldwide — showed that sodium selenate is safe and well tolerated in patients with bvFTD over a period of 12 months.

The majority of patients receiving sodium selenate showed no change in their cognitive or behavioural symptoms and reduced rates of brain atrophy over the trial period.

In almost half of the cases with bvFTD, the damage to the neurons in the brain is caused by the build-up of a protein called Tau. This protein is a major target for research in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia, as a way to reverse the neurodegeneration caused by this Tau accumulation.

According to Dr Vivash, sodium selenate upregulates an enzyme in the brain that effectively attacks the Tau protein. We have previously shown, in a Phase 2 trial, that patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease who took sodium selenate experienced less neurodegeneration than those who did not, she said.

In addition, those patients in the trial with higher levels of selenium, a breakdown product of sodium selenate, in their bloodstream showed less cognitive decline.

The research group is now conducting a larger study at many hospitals across Australia and New Zealand to further test whether this drug is beneficial for patients with bvFTD.

Image credit: © STUDIOS

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