Understanding of Alzheimer's Expanding

Alzheimer's and leukemia share same protein

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If we only knew exactly what caused Alzheimer's disease, it might be easier to treat. Scientists are making headway in both arenas. 

Researchers have found that a molecule involved in leukemia also plays a role in Alzheimer's, a discovery that could lead to new treatment paths.

"Discovery may lead to new drug therapies for Alzheimer's."

The molecule called c-Abl shows up in the cells of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a type of cancer of the blood. Peter Davies, PhD, head of the Feinstein Institute’s Litwin-Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease, was fascinated that this same protein is found in the plaques and tangles that scramble the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The cancer drug Gleevec blocks the protein from doing its damage and is used to treat leukemia and other cancers. However, in animal studies, the team learned that the drug doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, so won't be useful as a potential Alzheimer's therapy.

However, Davies said that the animal model is ideal for testing the benefit of drugs that turn off c-Abl. And he and his colleagues are looking for other drugs that inhibit c-Abl and can get into the brain.

“We have a great model to test compounds for Alzheimer’s disease. Will regulating c-Abl make a difference for patients? We won’t know unless we try it in double blind clinical trials.”

Findings from this study are published in June 14, 2011 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 27, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012