International Parkinson's biomarkers trial begins

A massive, international study to find and evaluate potential Parkinson's disease biomarkers has finished enrolling a first group of 600 Parkinson's patients and controls.

The Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), a landmark $55-million clinical study sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, launched last week to investigate risk factors for Parkinson's that could allow doctors to diagnose the disease before the onset of motor symptoms.

The study will consist of several parts, including a pre-motor cohort that will enroll participants who do not have Parkinson's disease but do have one of three potential risk factors for Parkinson's: a reduced sense of smell, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder or a mutation in the LRRK2 gene--the single greatest genetic contributor to PD known to date.

Previous research has shown a link between these factors and an increased risk of developing Parkinson's, but not everyone who has these conditions develops the disease.

"If scientists can learn more about the biological processes taking place in people with any of these three risk factors, we may be able to define biomarkers even before typical symptoms begin," Dr. Ken Marek, principal investigator of PPMI and president and senior scientist at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders in New Haven, CT, said in a statement.

Identifying Parkinson's biomarkers could have a big impact on patients--doctors could diagnose them sooner and researchers could use the biomarkers to find new drugs that may delay or prevent certain Parkinson's symptoms.

A second arm of the study will enroll patients with hyposmia (decreased sense of smell) and will take place at 23 sites around the world.

- read the press release