JUL 20, 2016 6:27 AM PDT

A Cancer Drug For Parkinson's? Not So Fast...

Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be devastating, to those who have it, and to those that care for them. The progress of the disease is slow and sometimes early symptoms are not picked up on right away. Problems with remembering words or becoming more clumsy with walking and carrying things are often just chalked up to old age. Sadly, once the disease takes hold, patients lose a great deal of their abilities. Tremors can impact working, daily activities and even eating. Speech problems make it hard to be understood. Eventually, patients lose the ability to walk or talk at all.
 A cancer drug shows promise for Parkinson's but caution is advised
There is no definitive test for PD, so patients often have to suffer through multiple tests and doctors visits over long periods of time to finally rule everything else out and arrive at a diagnosis of PD. Naturally, this causes patients and their families a great deal of stress so whenever there is a new treatment in the news, there is a huge influx of patients calling research hospitals, the CDC and their doctors to find out how to access a new treatment.
 
That was the case recently when a very small study done at Georgetown University Medical Center showed promising results for PD patients when they used a cancer drug nilotinib (brand name Tasigna). The drug is a type of cancer agent classified as a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Small amounts of the drug do reach the brain and it’s believed that once there it helps cells shed toxic proteins. PD is believed to be related to the death of cells in the brain as a result of some toxin, but no research has yet shown specifically what the toxin is and how it works. What is known is that the cells that die in Parkinson’s patients are ones that produce dopamine, which is involved in controlling movement. Nilotinib boosts dopamine levels.
 
When the news of the study was made public, patients were clamoring for the drug since it is already on the market for the treatment of leukemia but there were several issues with the study and caution is being advised by the study research team as well as the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation VP for Scientific Affairs, James Beck.
 
Beck pointed out that while the drug may show promise (there was a mouse model study on PD and nilotinib in 2013) the study at Georgetown was not conclusive. The major issue was the size of the study. There were only 12 participants in the study. While 11 of the patients did show improvement in motor and memory skills, there is no evidence that a larger study would replicate those results. Also, all 12 patients were taking nilotinib and knew they were. There was no control group and the study was not blind.  Finally, all of the patients in the study were in the advanced stages of the disease and all had at least a moderate degree of dementia and memory loss.
 
The senior researcher on the study Dr. Charbel Moussa, an assistant professor of neurology at Georgetown told UPI, "We have to be very cautious about the safety profile of this drug in Parkinson's patients. We also need to clarify the symptom areas that it may benefit, [and] how and when should this drug be used." Check out the video below for more information on the study.

Sources: UPIParkinson’s Disease FoundationSaint Louis Post Dispatch
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 26, 2019
Neuroscience
NOV 26, 2019
Air Pollution Linked to Alzheimer's, Study Finds
Worldwide, 9 in every 10 people breathe highly polluted air. A known contributing factor for many respiratory illnesses such as lung cancer, an increasing ...
DEC 04, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 04, 2019
Single Dose Ketamine Could Rewire Alcohol, Drug Dependance
Presentation by Tobias Stephenson about previous research exploring ketamine as an addiction treatment.    Researchers at University College Lond...
JAN 28, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 28, 2020
Protein complex discovered as first biomarker of PTSD
  Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have identified a potential d...
JAN 20, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 20, 2020
Ovarian Cancer Protein Accelerates Alzheimer's Neurodegeneration
Around 21,000 people in the US are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, while an estimated 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s. Now, research...
FEB 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 12, 2020
Brain Patients are Advancing Research
Neuroscientists may face the challenge of not having enough material or high-quality material to study the condition they’re researching. Luckily&mda...
FEB 18, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 18, 2020
The Wearable that Spots Early Signs of Alzheimer's
Since 2000, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s has increased by almost 90%. With an estimated 5.8 million Americans suffering from the disease, the Early ...
Loading Comments...