Joice Williams, 71, suffers from dementia.
"She would forget some things she would ordinarily remember, there might have been a little confusion about some things," explained her husband, Sterling Williams.
She took part in a small study where researchers gave her an antibody treatment called Gammagard IVIG. The results, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference showed she and three other patients saw no decline in their memory, thinking skills or daily functioning.
"Those who got the most effective dose in the initial study were effectively unchanged after three years which is an unexpected and happy result," said Dr. Normal Relkin, of NY-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who is one of the study authors.
Gammagard IVIG is given intravenously every two weeks. It targets amyloid, the protein that forms plaque on the brain.
Right now, there are no drugs approved to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Gammagard IVIG is one of three antibody tests currently under way.
"It is a very critical moment in the history of our field. If these three trials are successful, it will definitely change the course of future research and I think clinical practice," Relkin said.
An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's and that number is expected to climb to 16 million by 2050.
Joice Williams continues treatment even though she is no longer in the study.
"I'd say it's been a success. I don't expect her to revert back to normal but she hasn't gone downhill rapidly," Sterling Williams said.
Experts say her case is encouraging, but they won't know if the treatment is really effective until the results of a large trial come out next year.
Gammagard IVIG comes from the blood of healthy young people and it's already used to treat immune system and blood disorders. But it's expensive. Treating Alzheimer's with Gammagard costs $2,000-$5,000 every two weeks.
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