Alzheimer's Treatment and Cure: Cancer Drug Restores Memory in Mice, Holds Promise as Alzheimer’s Treatment

By Nayomi Chibana | Apr 01, 2015 04:11 PM EDT

There is new hope for those suffering from Alzheimer's. Scientists have found that a previously approved drug originally developed to treat cancer could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer's.

The compound, saracatinib, restores memory loss and reverses brain problems in mice with Alzheimer's disease-like symptoms. By targeting beta amyloid deposits - which is a precursor of Alzheimer's disease - and reducing their toxic effect, saracatinib restores connections between brain cells.

"With this treatment, cells under bombardment by beta amyloid plaques show restored synaptic connections and reduced inflammation, and the animal's memory, which was lost during the course of the disease, comes back," said Stephen M. Strittmatter, the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and senior author of the study, in a report by

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The study was carried out in collaboration with the National Center for Translational Services, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. According to a report by, it is designed to transform research into practical results as quickly as possible.

The center is currently focused on finding off-purpose uses of approved drugs. In an effort to systematize serendipity, the facility is equipped with robotic arms and "tissue chips" - which combine microchips with living stem cell cultures - to run as many as three million tests a week. In this way, other purposes can be found for already existent drugs, such as the case with Viagra, which was originally designed as a blood pressure medication and is now used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Other off-purpose drugs currently under testing to treat Alzheimer's include acamprosate calcium, which is prescribed to reduce cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms in alcoholics, and baclofen, a medication used to treat multiple sclerosis.

In the case of saracatinib, mice were genetically modified to produce Alzheimer's-like symptoms, including the buildup of beta-amyloid in brain tissue and memory loss. After four weeks of the treatment, the mice showed a reversal in their memory loss as well as restoration of synapse loss.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and currently afflicts nearly 5 million Americans. The illness causes clumps of amyloid beta protein to build up in the brain, and these protein clusters damage and eventually kill brain cells.

Alzheimer's disease also leads to loss of synapses, which are the spaces between neurons through which the cells communicate with each other and form memories. Current Alzheimer's drug therapies only ease symptoms without actually stopping the disease from progressing.

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