Alzheimer’s disease is ruthless. For the 5.7 million Americans living with the condition, coping with the loss of cognitive functioning is a daily uphill battle. Currently, there are no effective treatments that modify the course of Alzheimer’s, and once diagnosed, the average life expectancy is seven years.
The history of research into treatments for Alzheimer’s is filled with setbacks. Between 1998 and 2017, 146 candidate medicines were unsuccessful in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s. In the same timeframe, just four received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Moreover, these approved medicines treat only symptoms and are unable to slow the disease’s progression.
Why, when we have seen such progress in our ability to treat other diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and HIV, has progress in Alzheimer’s research been so difficult to achieve? Several factors make Alzheimer’s uniquely challenging to research and treat: