All Cambridge Neuroscience’s work is, of course, worthy of attention. Yet it is probably safe to say that few pieces of research require an addendum acknowledging the sheer level of public interest they spark.
“Professor Mallucci is very thankful for your interest and support,” reads the addendum to the story detailing the paper Repurposed drugs targeting eIF2α-P-mediated translational repression prevent neurodegeneration in mice by Professor of Clinical Neurosciences, Giovanna Mallucci, and published in the journal Brain last year. “She regrets she is unable to respond personally to all the emails received during the incredible response this research has elicited. Announcements about a trial will be made in about a year, once funding and ethical approval have been secured.”
Why all the excitement? Mallucci’s team discovered that two repurposed drugs – trazodone hydrochloride, a licensed antidepressant, and dibenzoylmethane (DBM), a compound being trialled as an anti-cancer drug – have the potential to become frontline weapons in the battle against one of the world’s biggest killers: Alzheimer’s disease.
Sitting in her office in Cambridge’s newly founded UK Dementia Research Institute, surrounded by piles of books she hasn’t had time to put on the shelves, Mallucci is well aware of the pressures. “There are, obviously, desperate people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias,” she says. “I receive many, many emails and letters asking me to treat people or to include them in trials and I always try to send a response. I’m a clinician as well. I’m a dementia doctor. I see elderly people, frail sufferers, and their frail carers. They are both getting older. It’s often a very difficult and distressing and tormented end to a life.”
Mallucci’s work is underpinned by a single question. “I wanted to go back to basic mechanism and understand, in my naivety, why neurons or brains cells die, and use that understanding to try to prevent it. And that is exactly what we’ve done – and here we are, 25 years later.”