Cancer and depression drugs could be ‘repurposed’ to cure dementia, study finds

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Researchers found the existing drugs could be 'repurposed' to great effect: Shutterstock

A new study has sparked fresh hope for dementia sufferers after two existing drugs were found to help reduce the impact of degenerative brain diseases in mice.

Researchers found drugs originally designed to treat depression and cancer could be “repurposed”, reducing brain shrinkage and restoring protein production.

The study, published in Brain: a journal of neurology, could now pave the way for a clinical trial in humans to see if the results could be replicated.

“The two drugs were markedly neuroprotective in both prion-diseased and FTD mice at clinically relevant doses over a sustained treatment period,” the authors wrote.

“These drugs therefore represent an important step forward in the pursuit of disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s and related disorders.”

Dr Doug Brown, Alzheimer's Society’s research and development director said the charity will be funding researchers to test the drugs in models of Alzheimer’s.

“We’re excited by the potential of these findings. They show that a treatment approach originally discovered while researching prion disease might also work to prevent the death of brain cells in some forms of dementia,” he said.

“This research is at a very early stage and has not yet been tested in people - but as one of the drugs is already available as a treatment for depression, the time taken to get from the lab to the pharmacy could be dramatically reduced.”