Utah Professor Thinks She’s on the Cusp of an Alzheimer’s Breakthrough

The discovery opens the door to potentially life-saving treatments for patients with brain tumors and other neurological diseases.

AP/David Duprey
A section of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease. AP/David Duprey

Dr. Donna J. Cross, a professor at the University of Utah with a doctorate in neuroscience, thinks she may be on the verge of a breakthrough on Alzheimer’s after she repurposed a cancer drug that caused a “complete reversal” of cognitive decline in mice.

Dr. Cross found that a small dose of a chemotherapy drug called Paclitaxel might be capable of repairing injuries, whether caused by pathology or by trauma, to the human brain.

The pioneering study, targeting mice genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, has shown that the administration of the modified cancer medication led to “a complete reversal of their cognitive deficit.” A similar recovery was observed in mice suffering from the effects of concussions.

“Whether that would happen in humans, we have a lot of work still to do,” Dr. Cross told Deseret News, adding, “it would be huge.”

“We would treat not just Alzheimer’s, but also any kind of dementia: ALS, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, any kind of condition where nerve cells are dying,” the doctor said.

She and other researchers discovered a method to deliver drugs through the nose directly to the brain, potentially overcoming one of the biggest challenges in treating neurological disorders. The human blood-brain barrier (BBB), a critical defense mechanism consisting of blood vessels and tissues, protects the brain from harmful substances but also blocks many medications from reaching the brain, impeding the treatment of diseases like cancer.

Traditionally, the BBB has posed a formidable barrier, preventing numerous cancer-fighting drugs from attacking brain tumors. However, the innovative work led by Dr. Cross has revealed a groundbreaking approach that could change the course of treatment for various brain conditions.

The discovery opens the door to potentially life-saving treatments for patients with brain tumors and other neurological diseases that have been difficult to treat due to the BBB’s restrictive nature. The next crucial phase involves preparing the nasal drug delivery system for clinical trials.

The New York Sun

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