Over a million people suffer from Parkinson’s in the United States alone and countless more experience symptoms of dementia. Neurodegenerative illnesses can be debilitating while the patients are living and many diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS have no cure. However, a recent study with cancer drugs and Parkinson’s affected patients has provided patients of neurodegenerative diseases hope for an eventual cure.
Although the study conducted at Georgetown University Medical Centre was small, it was quite encouraging for the advancement of treatment of Parkinson’s and symptoms of dementia. The research only involved 12 patients and its conclusions have yet to be verified by large-scale research. Six patients had latter stages of Parkinson’s (stage 3, 4 or 5 out of 5 stages) and six were diagnosed with a condition similar to Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia. The patients had severe symptoms including not being able to walk, speak, get out of bed, or feed themselves.
This group was treated with Tasigna, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug for treating leukemia, a form of cancer. The patients were asked to take the drug once a day. As the study was done on a small scale, there was no control group and no group was given a placebo to compare results.
After taking the drug for several months, 11 of the 12 patients showed considerable recovery in their abilities to walk, speak and carry out routine tasks. One patient was able to get out of bed and talk with her doctors, activities she had previously been unable to perform. Three other patients regained their speaking abilities, while one wheelchair bound patient was able to walk.
The researchers were themselves surprised to see significant positive effects of the drug, especially as some patients were in advanced stages of the illness. They highlighted the fact this was the first time a treatment was able to reverse symptoms of dementia. The investigators were thrilled with the results even more so as Tasigna is an FDA approved medication, implying it’s already been researched and deemed safe to use, but also tempered their excitement by noting comprehensive testing needs to be undertaken before one could definitely rule on the benefits of this drug for neurodegenerative disorders.
Two future studies have already been planned for early next year and will observe how Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients react to Tasigna. There is now hope on the horizon for people dealing with neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s.