Researchers hope that a new drug, owned by Switzerland's Roche, could slow the onset of dementia in Alzheimer's sufferers.
Tests carried out by Swiss, British and Japanese researchers have found that the non-toxic drug, CPHPC, erodes clumps of the amyloid protein that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.
They think the protein may be responsible for causing the loss of brain cells in Alzheimer's sufferers, leading to dementia. Clinical trials are set to start shortly.
"There's a hope that if one could arrest the process that is damaging the brain cells in Alzheimer's disease one could also arrest the loss of mental function," Professor Mark Pepys from University College Medical School in London told swissinfo.
"I think that's the most anybody can hope for with any approach to treatment of Alzheimer's at the moment, and that's all that we would expect if the very best hopes for our drug were fulfilled."
CPHPC acts by targeting a protein called serum amyloid P component, or SAP, which binds the amyloid clumps together and makes them resistant to breakdown by the body.
Promising test results
Tests carried out by Pepys and his colleagues on 19 patients suffering from a disease called systemic amyloidosis, a serious disease related to Alzheimer's, showed the drug completely removed the protein deposits and reduced the disease-causing amyloid proteins.
However, Pepys cautioned that the team has yet to cure anybody of anything and said it was not clear whether the amyloid deposits cause the loss of brain cells and the dementia that Alzheimer's patients experience.
The Alzheimer's trial will involve five patients who will be tested over several months to see whether the drug slows or stops their mental decline.
"We are very far indeed from a cure for Alzheimer's. No patient with Alzheimer's disease has yet received the drug," said Pepys.
"At the moment what we have is a new small-molecule drug which seems very safe and non-toxic and which very effectively targets the protein that we designed it to target."
swissinfo with agencies