Our Linked Clinical Trials initiative (LCT) identifies potential new treatments to slow, stop, or reverse Parkinson’s disease (PD) by 'repurposing' or repositioning drugs that are already approved to treat other conditions. A major part of our fundraising is directed towards funding these extremely important trials.

Annually in September, through the Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative, the Linked Clinical Trials committee meets in person to examine dozens of potential therapeutics; those that have the highest likelihood of successfully treating Parkinson’s are selected for advancement to clinical trials. Listed below are the drugs chosen by the committee to date, based on: drug safety, the drug’s ability to pass the blood-brain barrier, mode of action relevant to putative disease mechanisms in Parkinson’s, ability to measure the drug’s effectiveness, and demonstrated success in several preclinical Parkinson’s models (Brundin et al 2013).

Note: Please click in to the drug name (highlighted) for further explanation.

Exenatide (Bydureon)

Exenatide is a type 2 diabetes drug that has shown great promise as a neuroprotective agent in laboratory experiments (*1). Parkinson’s patients given Exenatide for one year continued to show improvements compared to the control group a year after discontinuing treatment. Trials using a weekly delivery of the drug (AstraZeneca’s Bydureon) are ongoing at University College London (UCLH), led by Dr Tom Foltynie and funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Results are anticipated by late 2016.


For the last few years the LCT committee has explored whether inhibition of cAbl by Nilotinib would offer a disease-modifying approach for PD.

Based on compelling biochemical evidence and considerable discussion, this expert committee concluded that the use of Nilotinib had significant potential to slow neurodegeneration in PD.

An impetus to revisit Nilotinib for Parkinson's came late in 2015 when preliminary results were released from a small study at Georgetown University on Nilotinib in 6 ‘late stage PD patients’ and 6 patients with ‘dementia with Lewy bodies’. 

The Cure Parkinson's Trust (CPT) built a working party comprising the company who own the drug, certain members of the LCT committee and potential funding partners, to design a robust trial to understand the effects of 'cAbl inhibition' by Nilotinib in people with Parkinson’s (there are a number of other drugs in this class which we are also exploring). 

Nilotinib Update

Dr Richard Wyse (CPT), Prof. Patrik Brundin (Van Andel Institute - VARI) and Todd Sherer (Michael J Fox Foundation) - Their article 'Nilotinib – Differentiating the Hope from the Hype' published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease July 2016 discusses the Georgetown safety trial. Concurrently, Michael J Fox Foundation, VARI and CPT have announced their collaborative partnership to assess the clinical use and development of Nilotinib in Parkinson's which we hope will begin in 2017.


EPI-589 is owned by Edison Pharmaceuticals who are running a proof of concept in Parkinson's trial*. EPI-589 was designed to treat rare mitochondrial diseases in children. We now know that mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of genetic types of Parkinson’s(*2) and is also thought to be a feature in Parkinson’s where the cause is not known. We hope this trial will help us understand whether this drug can improve mitochondrial function in neurons and if so, what benefit this has for people with Parkinson’s. 

UCL is now seeking people with Parkinson's to take part in a new Phase 2A study of EPI-589 in Parkinson’s.

For this trial UCL are recruiting those at the very earliest stages of Parkinson's who have not taken any Parkinson's medication or those with genetic forms of Parkinson's (specifically parkin, PINK1, LRRKE) who are currently taking Parkinson's medication.

The trial will last 5 months in total and all participants will take the drug EPI-589. It is hoped, that this will be the first step in the development of a new Parkinson’s treatment..

The study is being led by Professor Huw Morris and Dr Vincenzo Libri at the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre at UCLH in London.

** This trial is now recruiting in London, Tuebingen, Los Angeles and Boston. If you believe you are a suitable candidate and are interested in being involved, please contact the study team on (+44) 203 448 4531 or contact h.morris@ucl.ac.uk OR vincenzo.libri@ucl.ac.uk

For further detailed information about the trial click here.


Simvastatin treats high cholesterol but could have neuroprotective qualities in Parkinson’s due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Simvastatin’s effects in Parkinson’s are the subject of a clinical trial that is now underway in 23 centres across the UK led and supported by the University of Plymouth, with funding from CPT and JP Moulton Trust.


Ambroxol was prioritised by the LCT committee in 2014. This anti-mucolytic drug has now moved into a proof of concept study* at the Royal Free Hospital in London involving a cross section of people with Parkinson’s, including those with genetic forms of the disease who carry a single copy of the glucocerebrosidase enzyme gene mutation(GBA), that is the most common genetic risk factor for PD. It is believed that Ambroxol may help cells to counter the effect of the mutation by increasing glucocerebrosidase in neurons which is understood to enable cells to better dispose of unwanted toxic proteins such as alpha-synuclein. This trial is supported by the John Black Charitable Foundation and VARI.

** Feb 2016: Professor Anthony Schapira and Sanofi have recently announced their work  into further therapies targeted to the GBA gene mutation to understand more about the pathways of GCase and its connection to alpha-synuclein. CPT continues to support and follow Professor Schapira's work in this exciting research area.


Deferiprone was prioritised in 2012, a pan-European study is going ahead thanks to funding by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020. Recruitment for the trial is underway. CPT is fully supporting this trial in terms of recruitment and providing information.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)*

NAC was prioritised by the LCT committee in 2014. We are working with an expert team in the US led by Dr Carlie Tanner to develop a trial evaluating NAC as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s. NAC is currently used to treat paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose and to loosen mucous in cystic fibrosis sufferers or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. *Funding is still required for this important trial. 

Lixisenatide and Liraglutide

Lixisenatide and Liraglutide are two injectable Diabetes treatments which are being moved into Parkinson’s clinical trials. CPT and VARI are collaborating with the lead investigators in France and the U.S. as well as the pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and NovoNordisk. Two distinct trials have been designed with targeted populations of people with Parkinson’s to better understand this potentially important new approach to treatment. 

Publications for further information:

*1. Aviles-Olmos I, Dickson J, Kefalopoulou Z, Djamshidian A, Kahan J, Ell P, Whitton P, Wyse R, Isaacs T, Lees A, Limousin P, Foltynie T. 2014. Motor and cognitive advantages persist 12 months after exendatide exposure in Parkinson’s disease. J Parkinson’s Dis 4(3):337–344

*2. Pink1, Parkin, DJ-1 and mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinson's disease - Mark W Dodson, Ming Guo

Repurposing Drugs:

'Can You Teach Old Drugs New Tricks?' This informative article appears in Nature 14 June 2016 by Nicola Nosengo

May the Next PD Treatment Already Be Here? This article originally appeared in the Parkinson's Disease Foundation newsletter autumn 2013 by Dr.James Beck, Vice President, Scientific Affairs, Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Dr. Beck attended the first three of CPT's Linked Clinical Trials prioritisation meetings.

Clinical trials are costly in both time and money. In order to make efficient use of time and funds it may be necessary to do a smaller proof of concept study, in order to provide more evidence of the theory in question.