Feb 16, 2016

Is Cancer Drug Bexarotene An Effective Treatment for Alzheimer's?

Researchers are in disagreement about Bexarotene, an anti-cancer drug also known as Targretin®, and whether it will ever be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers are in disagreement about about Bexarotene for Alzheimer's

Does Bexarotene stop or prevent Alzheimer's? Are additional trials as a treatment for Alzheimer's warranted?

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Bexarotene is a cancer drug that is now being touted as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. This is not the first time the drug has leaped into the awareness of the worldwide media, and Alzheimer's community.

I first wrote about Bexarotene in 2012. Check out the series of articles we wrote by using ouur custom search feature to learn more about the drug and its effectiveness in clinical trials.

Custom Search - Bexarotene


If you are interested in the drug you should read the articles in the custom search and the information referenced below.

Highlights and Quotes

"We have all heard that physicians are treating their Alzheimer's patients with bexarotene, a cancer drug with severe side effects. This practice should be ended immediately, given the failure of three independent research groups to replicate the plaque-lowering effects of bexarotene.” -Robert Vassar at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Bexarotene when used in cancer treatment has significant side effects, including major blood-lipid abnormalities, pancreatitis, liver function test abnormalities, thyroid axis alterations, leucopenia, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation and rash.

Custom Search - Alzheimers Stages


Dr. Gary Landreth, Professor of Neurosciences, Alzheimer Research Laboratory Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, said, 
"Don't try this at home because we don't know what dose to give, we don't know how frequently to give it, and there are a few nuances to its administration. So one shouldn't be prescribing it off-label."

Custom SearchWhat is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The results of this most recent study are quite clear and do not support the use of bexarotene for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.”  - Danny Michaelson, Tel Aviv University.
  • In the latest study PET imaging indicated that bexarotene failed to lower plaque burden.
  • Cognition did not change in the 16 treated patients.
  •  Cholesterol levels rose in 11 treated people.
  • and triglycerides rose in 15, and in one person more than 10-fold.
  • The treatment did not cause amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA).

The study was small and only included 20 people.

Florbetapir imaging did suggest that the drug slightly lowered amyloid in a subset of people—those who did not carry the ApoE4 genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's.

The studies authors are proposing that these results lay the groundwork for a larger Phase 2 trial.

Bexarotene is expensive; however, the drug is scheduled to lose its patent this year, so the price is likely to drop.

Mary Jo LaDu and Leon Tai at the University of Illinois at Chicago also cautioned that the cardiovascular effects make bexarotene risky for Alzheimer’s patients and hypothesized that microbleeds in the brain would become a problem with prolonged use.

Expect to hear more on this science if this controversial drug makes it into the mainstream media in the U.S.

Additional Information

Bexarotene - First Clinical Results Highlight Contradictions


FDA-approved cancer drug shows signs of preventing Alzheimer’s symptoms

Alzheimer's preventative drug hope


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