Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation as a Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease: A Pilot Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;80(3):1119-1128. doi: 10.3233/JAD-200620.


Background: In 2015, a patient in hospice with Alzheimer's disease (AD) was treated with ionizing radiation to her brain using repeated CT scans. Improvement in cognition, speech, movement, and appetite was observed. These improvements were so momentous that she was discharged from the hospice to a long-term care home. Based on this case, we conducted a pilot clinical trial to examine the effect of low-dose ionizing radiation (LDIR) in severe AD.

Objective: To determine whether the previously reported benefits of LDIR in a single case with AD could be observed again in other cases with AD when the same treatments are given.

Methods: In this single-arm study, four patients were treated with three consecutive treatments of LDIR, each spaced two weeks apart. Qualitative changes in communication and behavior with close relatives were observed and recorded. Quantitative measures of cognition and behavior were administered pre and post LDIR treatments.

Results: Minor improvements on quantitative measures were noted in three of the four patients following treatment. However, the qualitative observations of cognition and behavior suggested remarkable improvements within days post-treatment, including greater overall alertness. One patient showed no change.

Conclusion: LDIR may be a promising, albeit controversial therapy for AD. Trials of patients with less severe AD, double-blind and placebo-controlled, should be carried out to determine the benefits of LDIR. Quantitative measures are needed that are sensitive to the remarkable changes induced by LDIR, such as biological markers of oxidative stress that are associated with AD.

Keywords: Adaptive protection systems; Alzheimer’s disease; low-dose ionizing radiation; oxidative damage; therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / radiotherapy*
  • Cranial Irradiation / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiation, Ionizing