The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research today announced more than $2.8 million in awards for 13 new projects to speed the discovery of biomarkers of PD.
The development of biomarkers is of critical importance to increasing the speed and efficiency of Parkinson's Disease therapeutic development, allowing scientists and clinicians to more accurately identify appropriate subjects for clinical studies, measure disease progression and monitor treatment effects in clinical trials.
The lack of clear and reliable biomarkers of PD is one of the greatest hurdles to developing and testing new treatments that slow, stop or even prevent the disease - a key unmet need for Parkinson's patients. In addition to improving the ability of researchers to diagnose PD and measure its progression, the identification of biomarkers would also help to provide more definitive outcomes from clinical trials.
In a paper published in the April 2009 edition of Neurology, David Vaillancourt, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, demonstrated that a type of MRI imaging technique known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) can distinguish people with early-stage PD from people without the disease. Now with MJFF funding, Dr. Vaillancourt is working to determine if DTI can differentiate PD from other neurological movement disorders to provide additional evidence for the use of DTI as a PD biomarker. In a separate but related longitudinal study, Tanya Simuni, MD, of Northwestern University is testing whether DTI can be used as a marker of PD progression by tracking whether DTI detects changes in people with Parkinson's disease over time.
The development of drug biomarkers is also critical to provide researchers with a tool for conclusively assessing whether a given drug is reaching brain areas of interest and/or achieving its desired effect. Danna Jennings, MD, of the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders is working with a brain imaging molecule that can be used as a biomarker for drugs targeting a glutamate receptor in the brain known as mGluR5. Drugs that block mGluR5 (antagonists) have been shown in pre-clinical models to reduce dyskinesias, the involuntary movements that are a debilitating side effect of dopamine replacement therapy to treat PD. Dr. Jennings will use the imaging molecule to confirm that a clinically approved mGluR5 antagonist is reaching the brain at appropriate levels and to determine the most effective dose of the drug for use in future PD clinical trials.
The following is a complete list of funded projects, which are made possible through the generous support of The Brin Wojcicki Foundation. Grant abstracts and researcher bios are available on the Foundation's Web site, www.michaeljfox.org.
T-Cell Receptor Changes as a Biomarker of Parkinson's Disease
Chuanhai Cao, PhD, University of South Florida, College of Medicine
Analysis of the Enteric Nervous System Using Routine Colonoscopy Biopsies: a Biomarker of Neuro-degeneration in Parkinson's Disease
Pascal Derkinderen, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology, Inserm U913, Nantes, France
QE3 Trial Ancillary Biomarkers Study
Claire Henchcliffe, MD, DPhil, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Development of an mGluR5 Imaging Marker for Parkinson's Disease
Danna V. Jennings, MD, Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders
Assessing Heart Rate Variability in the Parkinson's Associated Risk Study Cohort
J. William Langston, MD, The Parkinson's Institute
Validating the Electrocardiogram as a Tool to Identify Pre-Motor Parkinson's Disease
J. William Langston, MD, The Parkinson's Institute
Validation of Neuroimaging Biomarkers for Nigrostriatal Neurons
Joel S. Perlmutter, MD, Washington University in St. Louis
The Role of Striatal Serotonergic Terminals in L-Dopa Induced-Dyskinesia in PD Patients
Paola Piccini, MD, PhD, FRCP, Imperial College London, England
Raising Antibodies to Alpha-Synuclein
Michael Schlossmacher, MD, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Biomarkers of Pioglitazone Effects in PD
David K. Simon, MD, PhD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard Medical School)
High Resolution Diffusion Tensor MRI Imaging as a Biomarker of Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis and Disease Progression
Tanya Simuni, MD, Northwestern University
High Resolution Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Parkinson's Disease and Parkinson's Plus Syndromes
David E. Vaillancourt, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago
Development of alpha6-selective Neuronal Nicotinic Receptor Imaging Agent as a Parkinson's Disease Biomarker
Daniel Yohannes, PhD, Targacept, Inc.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation has been a leader in the development of PD biomarkers for several years, with investments of nearly $23 million to date. Recognizing the critical need for an orchestrated, fieldwide strategy to drive tangible progress, MJFF is also launching a comprehensive biomarker discovery and verification effort in 2010.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to ensuring the development of better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for Parkinson's disease through an aggressively funded research agenda. MJFF has funded over $170 million in research to date.
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