Physicians Study Whether "Super-Aspirin" Prevents Alzheimer's

Doctors at the University of Rochester and 39 other medical centers around the nation have begun a research study to see if a drug known as a super-aspirin -- an investigational compound made possible in part by basic medical research during the last decade at the university -- helps prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Twenty Rochester-area patients will be part of a group of about 1,300 people nationwide who will be treated with the experimental drug, which is similar to ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and other painkillers, but appears to be safer and much more efficient at squelching pain and inflammation. The first of the drugs is currently being reviewed for the treatment of arthritis and may be available next year.

The drugs target cycloxygenase-2 or cox-2, an enzyme in the body first discovered and cloned by a University team led by Don Young and Kerry O'Banion. Scientists believe the enzyme is at the root of the pain and inflammation we feel from a variety of ailments, including arthritis. Existing painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin inhibit both cox-2 and cox-1, a closely related enzyme. For years physicians believed that knocking out cox-1 helped patients feel better, but now most doctors believe that cox-2 is the real pain-causing culprit in many illnesses. Currently drugs targeting cox-2 are being tested as a way to treat arthritis more aggressively with fewer side effects, and they're being looked at as a possible way to prevent colon cancer.

This study is one of the first to see whether such drugs might prevent or delay Alzheimer's disease. During the past few years, O'Banion and others have discovered that cox-2 is active in the brains of people who have the disease. Though the precise cause of Alzheimer's disease is still a mystery, scientists believe the enzyme plays some role in the sickness and death of brain cells of patients. Since cox-2 inhibitors muck up the enzyme's activity, they might help protect the brain agains

Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester

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