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Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards $710,000 to Understanding of Parkinson's Disease Subtypes

NEW YORK, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research announced $710,000 in total funding to seven research teams for projects leveraging existing data and patient populations to initially characterize Parkinson's disease subtypes -- distinct forms of the disease that may differ in onset, progression and response to treatment.

"One of the most frustrating aspects of Parkinson's disease -- for patients, researchers and clinicians alike -- is the significant variability in how the disease manifests itself from patient to patient," said Sarah Orsay, chief executive officer of the Foundation.

"The retrospective studies funded under PD Subtypes aim to analyze data already gathered on different forms of the disease. This analysis could yield valuable information with potential to improve clinicians' ability to treat patients with existing therapies. It could also advance development of new treatments and enable better design of future clinical trials."

Applicants under PD Subtypes were required to propose research that would make use of existing data from well-characterized populations of Parkinson's patients. Several researchers will mine specific databases established by their own institutions for various purposes.

Others will work from some of the most important clinical research populations in the Parkinson's field, including the DATATOP (Deprenyl and Tocopherol Antioxidative Therapy of Parkinsonism) study population of 800 early-stage Parkinson's patients and the PRECEPT (Parkinson Research Examination of CEP-1347 Trial) population of 800 patients.

Nick Holford, MBChB, FRACP, of the University of Auckland will use a unique statistical approach to test the value of early measures of disease status in predicting the probable time to clinical events such as dementia, falls and depression.

Connie Marras, MD, PhD FRCP(C), of Toronto Western Hospital will focus on determining pr edictive factors for reaching a common neuroprotective clinical trial endpoint -- time to disability requiring dopamine replacement therapy. She will use PRECEPT data to validate an earlier study she conducted in the DATATOP population. This previous study examined factors including smoking, disease duration, and tremor as an initial symptom.

Stephen Van Den Eeden, PhD, of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute will assess predictive factors -- including age at diagnosis, gender, family history and race -- that may bear on mortality in Parkinson's disease.

Other funded studies will examine aspects of PD including whether it is possible to identify PD subgroups based on areas of disability (cognitive, balance, motor function) seen at the last available clinical visit; and factors (such as mood analysis, sleep, cognitive function and pain) that may contribute to the identification of novel PD subtypes.

Leadership funding for PD Subtypes was provided by the Kinetics Foundation of Los Altos, California. "We look forward to a continuing partnership between The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the Kinetics Foundation as we work to improve PD diagnosis and treatment by characterizing disease subtypes," said Ken Kubota, Kinetics' director of programs.


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