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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2017 Nov;38(11):956-966. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Early and Late CNS Inflammation in Alzheimer's Disease: Two Extremes of a Continuum?

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McGill University Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada. Electronic address:


In 1990 it was reported that individuals receiving NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) showed a markedly reduced prevalence of Alzheimer's disease (AD) compared to the overall population. Large epidemiological studies corroborated this assertion and provoked numerous prospective AD clinical trials with a variety of NSAIDs, all of which demonstrated lack of efficacy. It is postulated that the explanation for the success of NSAIDS in preventing AD onset when given at preclinical stages, and for their failure when administered after AD clinical presentation, lies in the changing nature of central nervous system (CNS) inflammation in the decades-long continuum of AD pathology. Early disease-aggravating CNS inflammation might start decades before the presentation of severe cognitive impairments or dementia, and the nature of this process will co-evolve with the neuropathological progression from preclinical to clinical AD stages. This early CNS inflammation should be considered a promising therapeutic target as we continue searching for an unequivocal diagnosis of AD preclinical stages.

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