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Cancer Drug May Fight Alzheimer's

Short-term memories maintained in mice given HDAC inhibitors, study finds

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that a cancer drug might be able to restore day-to-day memory in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The disease, the most common form of dementia among the elderly, is expected to afflict 120 million people worldwide by 2050. Often the first sign is loss of short-term memory.

"People often joke that they must have Alzheimer's because they can't remember where they put their keys, but for a person with the disease, this type of short-term memory loss is extremely debilitating," study author Ottavio Arancio, an associate professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a news release.

The researchers examined a cancer drug from a family of compounds called HDAC inhibitors. The drug tinkers with DNA, and in the mice the researchers studied it appeared to make it easier for neurons in the brain to manufacture new proteins.

That process is critical in the process of recording new memories.

"Because this type of drug has already been approved for some cancer patients, we hope that clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease can start in about three to four years," said co-author Mauro Fa, an associate research scientist at Columbia.

The findings appear in the September issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

More information

Learn more about memory from McGill University.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, Sept. 3, 2009

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