AMBAR, an Encouraging Alzheimer's Trial That Raises Questions

Front Neurol. 2020 May 29:11:459. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00459. eCollection 2020.


Grifols' recent Alzheimer Management by Albumin Replacement ("AMBAR") study investigated the effects of plasmapheresis with albumin replacement, plus intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) in some subjects, in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD). AMBAR was a phase IIb trial in the United States and a phase III trial in Europe. There were three treatment groups (plasmapheresis with albumin replacement; plasmapheresis with low dose albumin and IVIG; plasmapheresis with high dose albumin and IVIG) and sham-treated controls. Disease progression in pooled treated patients was 66% less than control subjects based on ADAS-Cog scores (p = 0.06) and 52% less based on ADCS-ADL scores (p = 0.03). Moderate AD patients had 61% less progression, based on both ADAS-Cog and ADCS-ADL scores, than their sham-treated counterparts (p-values 0.05 and 0.002), and their CDR-Sb scores declined 53% less than their sham-treated counterparts. However, ADAS-Cog and ADCS-ADL scores were not significantly different between actively-treated and sham-treated mild AD patients, although CDR-Sb scores improved vs. baseline for treated mild AD patients. Patients administered both IVIG and albumin had less reduction in brain glucose metabolism than sham-treated patients. Questions raised by these findings include: what mechanism(s) contributed to slowing of disease progression? Is this approach as effective in mild AD as in moderate AD? Must IVIG be included in the protocol? Does age, sex, or ApoE genotype influence treatment response? Does the protocol increase the risk for amyloid-related imaging abnormalities? How long does disease progression remain slowed post-treatment? A further study should allow this approach to be optimized.

Keywords: AMBAR; Abeta; Alzheimer's; albumin; clinical trial; intravenous immunoglobulin; peripheral sink hypothesis; plasma exchange.