OHSU drug study in fight against Parkinson's disease shows promise, researchers say

Joseph Quinn, M.D., professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of OHSU’s Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Program, (right) examines a patient with Parkinson's disease. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Parkinson’s disease affects 1.5 million Americans, leading to debilitating symptoms that include tremors, muscle stiffness and coordination and balance problems.

There is no cure for the progressive disease, but researchers at OHSU are part of a nationwide drug antibody study that's showing promise.

“There’s a lot of good treatments already available that can treat the symptoms, but none of these strategies prevent it from progressing over time,” said Dr. Joseph Quinn, professor of neurology at the OHSU School of Medicine and director of OHSU’s Parkinson Disease and Movement Disorders Program. “If it proves to be effective in bigger studies it would be something that you could start early in the disease to prevent people from progressing to the disabling phases of the disease.”

One of the theories on its cause is a protein that clumps together, killing brain cells that transmit nerve impulses leading to Parkinson’s. The antibody was found to block the spread of the bad proteins.

“If the drug works, if this antibody works, down the road it could be used at later stages of the disease,” Quinn said. “It’s just not being tested at those stages now.”

The first phase of the three-phase study included 80 people who were given the drug every four weeks for 24 weeks, with little or no side effects.

The drug was found to reduce the amount of the suspect protein in the participants' blood.

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