Amyloid-ß-directed immunotherapy for Alzheimer's disease

J Intern Med. 2014 Mar;275(3):284-95. doi: 10.1111/joim.12168.


Current treatment options for Alzheimer's disease (AD) are limited to medications that reduce dementia symptoms. Given the rapidly ageing populations in most areas of the world, new therapeutic interventions for AD are urgently needed. In recent years, a number of drug candidates targeting the amyloid-ß (Aß) peptide have advanced into clinical trials; however, most have failed because of safety issues or lack of efficacy. The Aß peptide is central to the pathogenesis, and immunotherapy against Aß has attracted considerable interest. It offers the possibility to reach the target with highly specific drugs. Active immunization and passive immunization have been the most widely studied approaches to immunotherapy of AD. A favourable aspect of active immunization is the capacity for a small number of vaccinations to generate a prolonged antibody response. A potential disadvantage is the variability in the antibody response across patients. The potential advantages of passive immunotherapy include the reproducible delivery of a known amount of therapeutic antibodies to the patient and rapid clearance of those antibodies if side effects develop. A disadvantage is the requirement for repeated infusions of antibodies over time. After more than a decade of research, anti-amyloid immunotherapy remains one of the most promising emerging strategies for developing disease-modifying treatments for AD. In this review, we examine the presently ongoing Aß-directed immunotherapies that have passed clinical development Phase IIa.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; amyloid-beta; clinical trials; immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease* / immunology
  • Alzheimer Disease* / prevention & control
  • Alzheimer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides* / immunology
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive / methods
  • Immunotherapy* / adverse effects
  • Immunotherapy* / methods
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccination / methods


  • Alzheimer Vaccines
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides