My father had Alzheimer’s; fortunately his was not severe, but it was still an awful thing to deal with. I know many friends who have or are going through this with their aging parents. It’s frightening to contemplate. So here’s some potentially good news:

A widely available cancer drug has shown remarkable success in reversing Alzheimer’s disease in mice, raising hope of a breakthrough against incurable dementia in humans, US researchers said Thursday.

Mice treated with the drug, known as bexarotene, became rapidly smarter and the plaque in their brains that was causing their Alzheimer’s started to disappear within hours, said the research in the journal Science.

“We were shocked and amazed,” lead author Gary Landreth of the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio told AFP.

The drug works by boosting levels of a protein, Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), that helps clear amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, a key hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Think of this as a garbage disposal,” Landreth said.

Six hours after mice got the drug, soluble amyloid levels fell by 25 percent, ultimately reaching 75 percent reductions. The effect lasted up to three days, said the study.

Soon after taking the drug, mice performed better on tests of mental ability and showed improved responses to odors.

Unlike normal mice, Alzheimer’s mice will not usually build nests if given tissue paper in their cage, as if they have forgotten to associate paper with the opportunity to nest.

But 72 hours after treatment, the Alzheimer’s mice began to build nests again.

Clinical trials in people should begin soon and produce early results in the next year, researchers said.