Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards Approximately $2 Million for Four Parkinson's Clinical Studies
ďThe Fox Foundationís innovative approach to accelerating a cure for Parkinsonís reflects the pioneering spirit of our founder, philanthropist Helen M. McLoraine,Ē said Scott Hamilton, Olympic gold medalist and Pioneer Fund Board member. ďWe are impressed that The Michael J. Fox Foundation is a lean organization that has chosen not to build an endowment, but instead to disperse the money they raise quickly to researchers on the front line.Ē
The Pioneer Fund is a private family foundation established by Helen M. McLoraine, a pioneer who broke new ground for women by assuming leadership roles in the oil and gas business in the 1950s. Influenced by her mother, Mrs. McLoraine established The Pioneer Fund to continue her lifelong support of projects and organizations that focus on medical research, education and social welfare. As a philanthropist, Mrs. McLoraine also supported more than 50 amateur skaters including Scott Hamilton.
Currently, there is limited funding available for researchers to carry out smallĖtoĖmedium sized innovative clinical research projects applying current knowledge regarding Parkinsonís disease directly to patients and patient care.
ďThe Foundation is working to bridge the disparity that exists between scientists who donít have the resources to validate their hypotheses in the clinic and industry that has no incentive to support projects before a hypothesis is validated because itís too much of a risk,Ē said Deborah W. Brooks, president and chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. ďWeíve taken a strategic look at roadblocks to new therapies and this was one of several areas where we think we can make a difference.Ē
The Foundation awarded a grant to a team in
Another grant recipient will test a novel strength training technique to improve respiration and swallowing in people who have developed dysphagia, a common condition experienced by people with Parkinsonís disease that occurs when the muscles that are involved in swallowing weaken or do not work properly. People with dysphagia have trouble swallowing and are at increased risk of inhaling food or liquids into the airways, which can lead to a condition known as ďaspiration pneumoniaĒ -- the leading cause of death in people with Parkinsonís.
Given that currently there are no treatments for dysphagia, this pilot study has the potential to have an immediate impact on patient care.
Two other teams are using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in novel ways to quantify changes in the brain associated with the onset of Parkinsonís disease and co-morbid conditions. One project seeks to quantify reductions in cortical acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity (cholinergic deficits) that occur in people with Parkinsonís and Parkinsonís-associated dementia. Researchers believe that reductions in AChEs may be responsible for cognitive impairment commonly seen in people with Parkinsonís. Dopaminergic therapies donít reverse cognitive impairment, suggesting that targeting the cholinergic system could be beneficial. AChEs are currently used to treat people with Alzheimerís but may be even more valuable for people with Parkinsonís.
The other project will use PET imaging to compare the blood brain barrier of people with Parkinsonís disease to those who do not have the disease. It is hypothesized that biochemical changes that occur in the blood brain barrier of people with Parkinsonís could allow greater accumulation of environmental toxins in the brain. If researchers are able to quantify these changes they may be able to identify people with the disease early and to track disease progression, as well as enable the targeted development of therapies that may restore normal blood brain barrier function.
The Clinical Discovery Program is an investigator-initiated, peer-reviewed program that provides funding for clinical research projects over the course of up to three years. Continuation of funding will be dependent upon the achievement of mutually agreed upon milestones. A scientific review committee consisting of biostatisticians, clinicians, clinical trial experts and others reviewed all applications.
The following is a complete list of researchers who were awarded grants under the Clinical Discovery Program initiative:
A Randomized, Double-blind, and Placebo-control Study to Assess the Ability of Slowing Disease Progression and Safety and Tolerability of Green Tea Polyphenols in Patients With Early Parkinsonís Disease
K.L. Leenders, MD, PhD
University Medical Centre
Christine Sapienza, PhD