The Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Banner Sun Health Research Institute are partnering in a breakthrough program geared toward searching for indicators of Parkinson’s disease.
This $40 million research undertaking, called the Parkinson’s Progressive Markers Initiative, is a five-year international project with multiple clinical sites and industry partners. The goal is to identify biomarkers that could lead to the disease.
Biomarkers, such as high cholesterol being an indicator of future heart disease, would help researchers and physicians to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier and could make clinical trials of drugs to cure or slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease easier and more accurate.
Dr. Holly Shill, a neurologist and movement disorders specialist at Banner Sun Health, explained the research project Thursday evening at the Rio Vista Community Center in Peoria.
The project, which will use new dopamine imaging technology to track the disease, needs about 400 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s patients and about 200 “normal” people for a control group to participate in the trial. In Arizona, they are looking for 20 or more enrollees for each group.
“These types of studies are critical,” Shill said. “The best thing to study is the people themselves.”
Shill cited an Alzheimer’s disease study conducted recently that is similar to what she hopes to do with the PPMI study. The Alzheimer’s study also looked for causes of the disease and is being used by pharmaceutical companies to research whether new drugs are effective.
Dr. Ken Marek, the president of The Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders in Connecticut, told the group Thursday that the study would help translate science into useful tools.
Marek, who also works closely with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, said that since Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain, it can be difficult to test, but this effort could enable doctors to better track the disease.
“Right now, we make our best guess, but it’s just a guess,” Marek said.
Parkinson’s patients interested in enrolling should be in the early, or de novo, stages of the disease and not have started medication yet. Contact the Banner Sun Health Research Institute for information. www.bannerhealth.com/Innovations/Sun+Health+Research+Institute.