Nearly five-million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. Drugs on the market can treat the symptoms -- but not one goes after what causes it. Now, researchers are on the brink of a huge breakthrough with a drug that targets the cause and could stop the disease in its tracks.
Frances Goldstein: "I like to paint -- a lot."
Jacobo, her husband of 45 years, loves watching her mind at work. Frances has Alzheimer's disease -- diagnosed eight years ago at age 56.
Jacobo Goldstein, Wife has Alzheimer's: "For the first nine months, I couldn't tell her the word Alzheimer's because I was afraid, you know, that she might go into tremendous shock."
Instead, Frances fought back. For three years, she's been in a study testing a drug that could change her prognosis. Current Alzheimer's drugs target the symptoms of the disease...like memory loss and emotional problems. Well this new drug is taking a more direct approach.
Paul Aisen, M.D., Alzheimer's Specialist: "This drug is attacking the cause of Alzheimer's disease. If it works, it will change the course of the disease and that will represent a real breakthrough."
The drug -- called Alzhemed -- attacks Amyloid Peptide - the molecule that causes Alzheimer's. In mice, watch as the drug clears the molecule from the brain.
Paul Aisen, M.D.: "I think it is tremendously significant."
An early study showed Alzhemed stabilized the disease in nearly half of patients. Now, more than 1,000 are being followed.
Paul Aisen, M.D.: "If the phase three study confirms that the drug is effective, we will have a way of slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease for the first time."
Frances takes Alzhemed twice a day.
Jacobo Goldstein: "I don't know where we would be if it wasn't for this. We have no idea. I know what she does now. If we can stay the way we are, we would be forever grateful."
With hope in hand, Frances continues to make every day and every painting count.
To date, more than 600 patients have completed one year of treatment on the medication. The study is scheduled to be complete soon. More than 70 centers across the United States and Canada are taking part. Side effects of the drug have been minimal and primarily include mild gastrointestinal symptoms.