What sort of treatments are available for patients with dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions? Are these treatments safe and effective? While these questions vary in answers, researchers are currently exploring a new potential therapeutic option: tyrosine kinase inhibitors, or TKIs. A press release from The Regenesis Project announced a renewed interest in this drug class; this follows a study which evaluated Bosulif (bosutinib) for patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. If you’re interested in the full study findings, you can find them in Neurology Clinical Practice.
So what are TKIs, and what makes them such a promising treatment for patients with dementia? In the past, TKIs have been used to treat cancer. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), TKIs are a type of targeted therapy that is often orally administered. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) continues that TKIs:
[block] the action of enzymes called tyrosine kinases, [which play] a part of many cell functions, including cell signaling, growth, and division. These enzymes may be too active or found at high levels in some types of cancer cells, and blocking them may help keep cancer cells from growing.
However, this group of drugs is now of interest for dementia because of the way they work. If TKIs can reduce inflammation and get rid of damaged cells, they can also be used to remove toxic protein buildup. Just like this therapy prevents cell growth, it can also work to rebuild a healthy brain and remove damaged or dead cells. Some researchers also believe that these drugs can prevent toxic proteins from accumulating in the brain, halting disease progression at the very start.
Developed by Pfizer, Bosulif (Bosutinib) is currently indicated for the treatment of chronic leukemia. However, researchers from The Regenesis Project wanted to analyze whether this treatment could be effective for patients with early-stage dementia. 31 patients enrolled in the study. First, patients received 1 year of Bosutinib. Next, patients partook in 1 year of follow-up. Ultimately, Bosutinib was found to improve scores on the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale, improving memory loss and halting disease progression. The Regenesis Project hopes to continue studying this therapy for dementia in the future.
Currently, there are no cures for Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Doctors believe that genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices all play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. After neurons disconnect and die, patients experience significant and severe memory loss. In later stages of the condition, symptoms become too intense for many patients to carry out daily tasks or live independently. Alzheimer’s often affects those older than 65, and affects females more than males. Symptoms and complications include:
- Changes in behavior and personality
- Poor thinking and reasoning skills
- Difficulty with decision-making, completing tasks, or preserved skills
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Frequent falls and fractures
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers are not exactly sure what causes dopaminergic neuron death in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive central nervous system (CNS) disorder which impacts movement. However, genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle are all believed to play a role. In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine-producing neurons in the brain degenerate and die. Since dopamine impacts how the body and brain communicate, dopaminergic neuron death causes issues in motor function.
Parkinson’s disease occurs in five stages. The first is the most mild, with light tremors on one side of the body. However, patients lose balance by stage 3, and are unable to live independently by stage 4. In the final stage, patients are unable to stand or walk, and may experience hallucinations. Generally, Parkinson’s impacts patients over 50 years old.
- Poor balance and posture
- Slowed movement
- Muscle stiffness and rigidity
- Changes in coordination
- Tremor in one or both hands
- Loss of smell
- Changes in speech, such as slurring or stuttering
- Loss of automatic movements (blinking, smiling)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unintended weight loss
Learn more about Parkinson’s disease.