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UR Medicine starts clinic trial for Parkinson's
by Kelsie Smith
Rochester, N.Y. -- The University of Rochester is playing a large role in a trial for a promising treatment that could slow the progression of Parkinson's disease.
"My wife first noticing it, the hunched shoulders the shuffling of the feet," said Gary Hilburger.
Hilburger was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 12 years ago. He's one of the eight to ten people with Parkinson's disease that will be part of the clinical trial in Rochester. He sees this as an opportunity to help others.
"I look and I see people I wheelchairs, people who can't stand and speak for themselves and I look up and I pray at night and say 'God, thank you that I've got this,'" said Hilburger. "In that sense Parkinson's is a blessing of perspective. It's opened my eyes to understand and walk even a little bit of the path of people who suffer more. I've been in 4 clinical trials so far and as long as I got a breath in my body I'm going to keep going."
A $23-million grant from the National Institutes of Health is making it possible for a new Phase 3 clinical trial, co-lead by the University of Rochester and Northwestern University, to evaluate the drug isradipine.
"We have very good treatments to treat Parkinson's early on, but over time the effectiveness of those treatments becomes more challenging," said Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry neurologist Kevin Biglan, M.D. "So a treatment that actually slowed the progression of the disease would likely give people a much longer period of time where they're functioning at a very high level."
Isradipine has been on the market for over 20 years as a medication for high blood pressure.
Researchers believe this drug may be effective in treating Parkinson's disease because studies have shown people taking the drug for high blood pressure have a lower incidence of Parkinson's disease. It's speculated that overactive calcium channels may play a role in the death of dopamine producing cells in the brain, a hallmark of Parkinson's.
During a Phase 2 evaluation of isradipine, conducted in 2012, the safety and appropriate dosage of the drug was determined. This phase was funded by a $2.1-million grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF).
The clinical trial will include 336 individuals with Parkinson's disease from across the U.S. and Canada and will last three years. The primary goal of the study is to determine is if the drug can slow the progression of the disease.