It's a huge finding that could change how Parkinson's is treated.
A drug that is typically used to battle leukemia could help people reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s or dementia, a groundbreaking new study has found.
Researchers gave nilotinib, common in the treatment of leukemia, to 12 patients in a pilot study, and found that there was movement and mental improvements in all 11 people who went through with the trial over a period of six months, according to an NPR report. They reported their findings at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, which took place this past Saturday.
And they weren’t minor improvements either. The study’s author, Fernando Pagan, who is the director of the Movement Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, said that one woman actually was able to feed herself again after losing that ability, and another man stopped using his walker. Three more patients who had become mute were suddenly able to speak again. He said it was the “most excited I’ve ever been” in 25 years of Parkinson’s research, according to the report.
It will take some larger studies to prove this result out, however. The treatment will need to go through some placebo-controlled studies, but if these results continue to be seen, nilotinib could be the breakthrough drug Parkinson’s and dementia patients have been waiting for.
Scientists believe that nilotinib may be interrupting the process that results in the death of brain cells, which results in neurodegenerative diseases. This includes diseases like Alzheimer’s.
One of the authors of the study, Charbel Moussa, who is an assistant professor of neurology at Georgetown University, supposedly came upwith the idea to treat people with nilotinib. He knew that many of those with Parkinson’s or dementia often have a related condition: Lewy body dementia. This involves toxic proteins that attack brain cells, and he believed that nilotinib could probably stop this process in its tracks.