GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The Parkinson’s disease symposium taking place this week at Van Andel Institute signals a big milestone for patients, says an advocate participating in the conference. “What I’m really excited about in this conference is it’s the first time Parkinson’s patients are coming together with the scientists to discuss things on equal terms,” said Tom Isaacs, co-founder of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, an organization based in the United Kingdom.

The third annual Grand Challenges in Parkinson’s Disease symposium, held Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 24-25, focuses on the ways patients can help with clinical trials and in speeding access to new treatments.

“We want to bring people together to work as a team in clinical trials,” Isaacs said. “Some of the science that goes on, some of the clinical trials that go on, are not relevant to us.”

The VAI and Isaac’s foundation announced they have formed a partnership to work toward identifying new treatments for Parkinson’s. Called the Linked Clinical Trials initiative, it is aimed at studying medications developed to treat other diseases to see if they can slow or reverse Parkinson’s.

The new initiative “represents the most exciting opportunity to find a breakthrough in Parkinson’s research,” Isaacs said. Issacs, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 20 years ago at the age of 46, said he hopes the conference will show patients they have a role to play. “We need to be able to educate patients so we can step up to the plate, so we can respond to these funding requirements,” he said. “If we understand about the condition more, we can raise money. We can start to participate in trials.” He believes Parkinson’s patients are not as involved in clinical trials as patients with other conditions. Part of that may be because people often are older.

Another patient advocate taking part in the conference is Brian Grant, a former NBA basketball star who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 36 (pictured above).

Looking back, Grant said he realizes the first sign of Parkinson’s began three years earlier, in 2005. “I couldn’t jump off my right leg,” he said. “I just figured – wear and tear. The next year, I began to have a hand tremor in my wrist.” His condition was diagnosed in 2008. The next year, his Brian Grant Foundation began raising funds and supporting education and outreach for Parkinson’s patients. Grant launched exercise boot camps tailored for Parkinson’s patients at YMCAs in Portland, Ore. The program is expanding to Seattle and, eventually, Grant hopes it will be available program nationwide. “We’re trying to get people to be proactive, especially young men like ourselves, about the disease,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe how many are hiding with their disease. “We are trying to put information out there to make them aware of the things they can be proactive with, until institutions like this and the Michael J. Fox Foundation find a cure for us. We can do that by focusing on nutrition, exercise and support.”

LINKED CLINICAL TRIALS

The Linked Clinical Trials initiative launched by Van Andel Research Institute and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust aims to address the problems of the costly and lengthy development process for developing new drugs.

• A committee of global leaders in research is analyzing existing drugs for their potential to treat Parkinson’s.

• One of the drugs, exenatide, is used to treat Type 2 diabetes. It is showing promise in treating Parkinson’s in a clinical trial at University College London.

• Both VARI and the Cure Parkinson’s Trust will contribute funding for three years.

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“The fact that all the trials will be on treatments that already have proven safety profiles in other conditions inspires our belief that the LCT program will quickly generate therapies for Parkinson’s that will at last have the capacity to stop or reverse this illness,” says Tom Isaacs, co-founder of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

“The Linked Clinical Trials initiative is an exciting approach to an exceedingly difficult problem. By selecting drugs that already are in use, we have the potential to create real, tangible change for patients on a much shorter timeline,” said ,” said Dr. Patrik Brundin, chair of the LCT committee and director of VARI’s Center for Neurodegenerative Science.

September 24th, M Live.com