As tau aggregation pathology correlates with clinical dementia in Alzheimer's disease (AD), a tau aggregation inhibitor (TAI) could have therapeutic utility. Methylthioninium (MT) acts as a selective TAI in vitro and reduces tau pathology in transgenic mouse models.
To determine the minimum safe and effective dose of MT required to prevent disease progression on clinical and functional molecular imaging outcomes.
An exploratory double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-finding trial of MT (69, 138, and 228 mg/day) was conducted in 321 mild/moderate AD subjects. The primary outcome was change on the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog) at 24 weeks relative to baseline severity. Effect of treatment on regional cerebral blood flow decline was determined in a sub-study in 135 subjects. After 24 weeks, subjects were re-consented to enter sequential 6- and 12-month blinded extension phases. Registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT00515333).
At 24 weeks, there were significant treatment benefits in two independent populations at the 138 mg/day dose: in moderate subjects on the ADAS-cog scale (treatment effect: −5.42 units, corrected p = 0.047) and two other clinical scales; in mild subjects on the more sensitive regional cerebral blood flow measure (treatment effect: 1.97%, corrected p < 0.001). With continued treatment for 50 weeks, benefit was seen on the ADAS-cog scale in both mild and moderate subjects. The delivery of the highest dose was impaired due to dose-dependent dissolution and absorption limitations.
The minimum safe and effective daily MT dose is 138 mg and suggests that further study of MT is warranted in AD.