“Axitinib, the anti-cancer drug we used, blocks a receptor in the brain called a tyrosine kinase receptor, which is partly responsible for spurring blood vessel formation,” explained Dr. Chaahat Singh, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral fellow working with Prof. Jefferies. “It stops abnormal blood vessels from growing, which then prevents many downstream effects.”
By using Axitinib for just one month, the researchers dramatically reduced blood vessel growth, restored the blood-brain barrier, and most significantly, helped mice perform better on cognitive tests.
In a typical test, a mouse is trained how to reach a reward through a maze. A healthy mouse can find its way back to the reward, while an animal with Alzheimer’s disease symptoms cannot.
The treatment has only been applied to mice thus far. Clinical trials will be needed to assess the effectiveness of this treatment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as consideration for the long-term use of anti-cancer drugs in people living with Alzheimer’s, who are mostly elders.