Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals join a world first to find a cure for Parkinsons
Parkinsons UK is launching the biggest in-depth research study tracking people with the neurological condition ever mounted anywhere in the world today (April 16).
The charity says it is investing over £1.6 million into the research study to unlock further secrets about Parkinsons and to boost the chances of finding a cure.
Parkinsons UK, the leading research and support charity, (www.parkinsons.org.uk) has chosen the opening day of Parkinsons Awareness Week to put out an urgent call for 3,000 volunteers – both recently-diagnosed people with Parkinsons (in the last three years), those aged under the age of 50 at diagnosis, and their brothers and sisters – to take part in its ground-breaking Tracking Parkinsons clinical study.
The Parkinsons UK research project will be led by Dr Donald Grosset at the University of Glasgow and will link eventually to 35-40 centres around the UK.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the key centres taking part in the research, which is being led by Consultant Neurologist Dr Paul Worth. He comments: Here in East Anglia we are very pleased to be playing a full part in Tracking Parkinsons. We want every eligible person with Parkinsons in the region to be able to take part in the study, and so as Parkinsons Research Director for the region I have made sure that a Parkinsons specialist from every acute hospital will be involved in recruitment.
Many people with Parkinsons in Norwich have already expressed interest in participating, and we recruited our first volunteer last week. In order to minimise any extra time our volunteers will need to commit to helping with this study, we will try to make sure that the assessments take place at the same time as their normal appointments. I have no doubt that people affected by Parkinsons will be very supportive of this study.
Tracking Parkinsons primary aim is to identify elusive biomarkers for Parkinsons (signpost indicators in the blood, for example) that could help develop simple tests, like blood tests, for use as diagnostic tools. Despite the best efforts of researchers worldwide no biomarkers have yet been identified for Parkinsons. An early diagnosis is crucial if doctors are to be able to prescribe the right drugs for people with Parkinsons to control and one day, hopefully, even cure – their condition.
The responses of people with Parkinsons to treatments for distressing symptoms like tremors, movement problems, anxiety, memory lapses and digestion problems will be closely monitored for up to five years.
Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Innovation at Parkinsons UK said: Studies like Tracking Parkinsons could make a huge difference and help us to ultimately find a cure. Identifying biomarkers is key and would revolutionise the diagnosis and management of Parkinsons. Finding a cure for Parkinsons is like building a gigantic jigsaw, but we still have a number of the pieces missing. This vital new study will help us fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.
We hope Tracking Parkinsons will also help us to identify people who have a greater risk of developing Parkinsons and we can monitor them more accurately.
News of the study comes at a time when hopes are growing at Parkinsons UK, that we are closer than ever before to finding a cure for Parkinsons. A cure, in this instance, Dr Kieran Breen explained, would mean stopping the devastating symptoms of Parkinson’s – including tremors, mood changes, movement difficulties, loss of smell and speech problems – in their tracks.
Dr Donald Grosset, who is leading the Tracking Parkinsons study, said: The cure for Parkinsons is a global challenge and all the samples gathered from our thousands of volunteers will be available for analysis by researchers the world over. This, in itself, will speed up our ultimate goal to develop a cure for Parkinsons. I am very excited to be leading this cutting edge research collaborating with top researchers from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To qualify as a volunteer for Tracking Parkinsons at one of the UK centres, people need to be under the age of 50 at diagnosis or have been diagnosed with Parkinsons within the last three years (from the date they register for the study). Brothers or sisters of either set of participants are also invited to take part.
To find out more about how to take part in Tracking Parkinsons call our freephone helpline 0808 800 0303, or visit www.parkinsons.org.uk/tracking for full details and links to other Parkinson’s UK funded research.