Image of different colored pills spilled onto a flat surface

A trial evaluating the combination therapy of a drug and an antioxidant shows promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new report.

The study was published Thursday in Nature Medicine. The research explored an alternative treatment strategy — a combination therapy of two existing drugs. It found that the combination of medications was safe, tolerable and feasible for people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Miranda Orr, PhD, associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, led the research. Her team studied dasatinib and quercetin in people who had early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Orr had previously conducted research on the combination to kill senescent brain cells in Alzheimer’s mice models. Senescent cells are older cells that do not function normally and do not die off when they should. As a result, they can trigger inflammation, aging, neurodegeneration, and cancer. They’re also called “zombie cells.”

The next study is looking at how to get rid of these cells with combination therapy. 

“Dr. Orr’s findings cannot have come at a better moment. Aging is the leading risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and as we continue to identify new treatments it is crucial that we develop pleiotropic drugs targeting the underlying aging mechanisms and novel biomarkers to help accelerate these trials,” Howard Fillit, MD, co-founder and chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, said in a statement. “The ADDF has long supported a diverse and robust therapeutics portfolio, and we are encouraged that more than 75% of drug candidates in today’s pipeline target novel pathways.”

“This will ultimately lead us closer to the day when we will have multiple therapies, which can be used in combination to target biological processes that drive aging, like senescence, in our fight against Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Fillit.

“While this is an early study and the results should be treated with caution, the outcomes allow us to move forward with a larger placebo-controlled Phase II trial,” Orr added.