Cancer drug found effective against Alzheimer’s disease


Taiwan researchers have proved during rodent testing that a widely used cancer drug is also effective against Alzheimer’s disease, with clinical experiments set to begin in October and a new drug for the brain disease expected to be marketed in three to five years, Academia Sinica sources reported yesterday.

The drug — granulocyte-colony stimulating factor or G-CSF — has been used in cancer cases for years to offset the side-effects of chemotherapy, with a boosting effect to human blood cell regeneration through stimulating the release of hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow.

Biologists at Academia Sinica — Taiwan’s top research institution — have found that the stem cells released can not only replenish the damaged blood cells, but they can also refresh the impaired areas in body organs such as the heart and brain.

In a research paper published in multiple renowned science journals, Shen Che-kun and Tsai Kuen-jer — both from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Molecular Biology — state that the cognitive and memory functions of Alzheimer’s disease-infected laboratory mice have recovered to near-normal status after being treated with G-CSF, indicating that the stem cells have replaced the dysfunctional neurocytes to overcome the injuries caused by Alzheimer’s.

Shen noted that conventional drug treatments for Alzheimer’s mainly focus on maintaining the status of brain function, without the ability to restore them to full performance. While some stem-cell therapies show promising signs in function restoration, they require injections or operations on the damaged areas of the brain.

Unlike other stem-cell therapies, the G-CSF method is non-intrusive, requiring only injections in the abdomen or blood vessels to activate the effect, Shen pointed out, adding that the motivated stem cells will then move to the brain and repair the target area.