For the few drugmakers that haven't given up on the decadeslong, elusive quest for a cure of Alzheimer's disease, each piece of news is a small signpost along a possible path to success — and billions of dollars in potential sales.

That helps explain the 20 percent surge in Biogen Inc.'s shares Friday. After one of its experimental drugs showed disappointing results in December, a new analysis with an additional six months of data suggested that the treatment might slow the progression of the disease.

This is the story of Alzheimer's. Dramatic ups and downs have been typical, with about 200 failed attempts to find a treatment. Drugmakers are seeking to escape a maze, trying one approach, failing, then starting over with another. Biogen and its Japanese partner Eisai Co. used a new measure in their study, which showed positive results.