The breakthrough — using mice — was welcomed by dementia experts last night.
But they stressed the study was in its early stages and the treatment has not yet been tested on humans. US researchers used the cancer drug bexarotene on the mice.
The rodents' memory and behaviour improved after the drug cleared a protein associated with Alzheimer's called amyloid.
And the speed of the effects impressed the team at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.
Professor Gary Landreth, a neuroscientist, said the potential promise of a therapy for Alzheimer's disease was "exciting". He added: "Our next objective is to ascertain if it acts similarly in humans. We are at an early stage in translating this basic science discovery into a treatment."
Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at charity Alzheimer's Research UK said: "While this early study may look promising, success in mice unfortunately does not always guarantee success in people." Professor John Hardy of University College London added: "A programme of clinical trials is now needed to assess whether these potentially promising results translate into an effect on the human disease."
Author Sir Terry Pratchett, 63, is among UK sufferers of Alzheimer's, which currently has no cure.
Sourced from The Sun, 9th February 2012.