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Michael J. Fox Foundation Commits up to $1 Million to Characterize Parkinson's Disease Subtypes

NEWYORK, NY — The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has committed up to $1 million for research 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.

The progression and course of PD vary so widely among affected individuals that the concept of disease subtypes has long been appreciated by clinicians, who have defined subtypes such as “tremor-dominant” and “posture/gait dysfunction” based on clinical features including motor and non-motor symptoms, rate of progression, responses to treatment, and patient characteristics including gender, ethnicity or age of onset. Previous studies, however, have not conclusively established connections between subtypes such as these and predictive disease prognoses.

“Telling a patient that her Parkinson’s is ‘tremor-dominant’ is of little value unless the designation can be used to predict her likely disease progression and tailor an individualized treatment regimen,” said Deborah W. Brooks, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “PD Subtypes prioritizes the work needed to substantively link certain sets of clinical features to particular disease prognoses. The ability to do this will vastly improve clinicians’ ability to treat patients with existing therapies, as well as the development of novel treatments and the design of future clinical trials.

Under PD Subtypes the Foundation is seeking highly focused proposals to generate hypotheses about whether and how particular clinical features of PD, present at initial diagnosis, may predict a patient’s prognosis. Applicants should outline plans for retrospective, data-mining studies to leverage existing data and well-characterized sample patient populations. Studies may focus on understanding variability in the progression of individual PD symptoms (i.e., tremor, posture and gait, cognitive dysfunction) or on identifying clusters of clinical features that predict different PD prognoses. Collaboration between clinicians and statisticians/epidemiologists is strongly encouraged, and applicants must demonstrate evidence of access to pre-existing datasets in their applications.

Pre-proposals are required and must be submitted online by November 6, 2006. Information about submitting pre-proposals online can be found on the Foundation’s Web site ( Pre-proposals will be reviewed by the Foundation’s scientific staff and a panel of scientific experts. Applicants whose pre-proposals are determined to meet the review criteria will be invited to submit full application proposals. Funding is anticipated by May 2007.

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