Cancer Drug Helps Parkinson’s Patients

Dr. Michael Okun, a University of Florida neurologist who’s medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, finds the study intriguing. “Nilotinib therapy focuses on the protein deposits that accumulate in the Parkinson’s disease brain. These protein deposits are called Lewy bodies,” he said.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates that 1 million Americans have the condition, marked by tremor, rigid muscles and problems with movement. There is no cure, although early treatment can delay the worst symptoms.

Drugs that can help for a while include levodopa, which replaces some of the brain’s lost dopamine, as well as drugs that stimulate dopamine production, help dopamine stay in the brain longer, or boost levodopa’s effects. Deep brain stimulation can help control tremors.

The study reported on Saturday was meant only to determine if it was safe to use nilotinib in Parkinson’s patients. There wasn’t what’s called a control group, which usually involves a placebo treatment to make sure patients just aren’t responding because of psychological reasons – and to make sure that doctors and caregivers watching the patients don’t believe they’re seeing something different when they really are not.

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