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Funded Studies

Development of Analytic Tests to Use as Nilotinib Companion Diagnostics in Parkinson's Disease

Study Rationale:
Evidence suggests that increased activity of the c-abl protein in the brain may contribute to the development and progression of Parkinson's disease (PD). Nilotinib, a drug that inhibits c-abl, has recently shown promise as a potential therapeutic. In its activated state, c-abl is modified with a phosphate group (protein regulator) and measuring the extent of phosphorylation may be an effective method of determining whether nilotinib is working. Unfortunately, researchers have not yet been able to detect phosphorylation sites due to the low concentration of these proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (baths the brain and spinal cord). To effectively monitor nilotinib in clinical trials, it is necessary to develop a test that can measure these proteins at low concentrations.

This project aims to create a test to measure the phosphorylation state of c-abl and its target, CRKL, using a highly sensitive technology called Simoa. We hypothesize that, by using this new technique, we will be able to measure specific phosphorylation states that have not previously been detected.

Study Design:
Our lab has developed a technology called Simoa that can measure proteins at extremely low concentrations by capturing individual protein molecules on magnetic beads and counting them using fluorescence (tags that light up proteins) imaging. We will develop Simoa assays (analytic tests) to measure the phosphorylation state of c-abl and CRKL and then test whether these assays have sufficient sensitivity to detect these proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of both those with Parkinson's and healthy individuals.

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson's disease:
We believe our assays will be instrumental in demonstrating the efficacy of nilotinib in clinical trials, and, in the future, these assays could become a companion diagnostic for the drug. The tests we develop might inform doctors in advance of which people will be most likely to benefit from nilotinib and may even allow them to tailor the dosage of the drug in response to changes in the brain.

Next Steps for Development:
After completion of this study, if successful, these tests will be made available to the research community and used in upcoming clinical trials. If it is found that administering these tests allows doctors to better select those eligible for nilotinib treatment, the tests will be made commercially available for this purpose.


  • David R. Walt, PhD

    Boston, MA United States

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