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Is Pricey Off-Label Alzheimer’s Treatment a Bust?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New research suggests we may still be a long way from understanding how the anti-cancer drug bexarotene works in Alzheimer's patients, if at all.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University last year reported in a study that bexarotene improved memory and quickly cleared amyloid plaques from the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s. Since the drug is already approved for use in T-cell lymphoma, a number of doctors began treating their Alzheimer’s patients with the $14,000-per-year drug in an off-label use. But new mouse research that attempts to replicate the results of last year’s study has failed to show similar results.

Out of four mouse studies, three showed no improvements in memory or in the clearance of amyloid plaques. In a fourth mouse study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, mice treated with the drug were able to perform as well cognitively as their non-Alzheimer’s counterparts within 10 days after initiation of treatment. Still, this study did not show the same affects on amyloid plaques as the study from last year.

Given the results of the new research, FDA approval of bexarotene in humans with Alzheimer's may be further off than initially thought.

Copyright 2013 ABC News

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