In recognition of Parkinson’s Awareness month, MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, penned an op-ed for Scientific American about the current state of Parkinson’s disease (PD) research, 200 years after Dr. James Parkinson formally characterised the disease. In the commentary, Dr. Sherer highlights progress from the past two centuries that has brought us closer to a cure — from the breakthrough discovery of levodopa in 1967, to the momentum generated in the past two decades including key genetic findings and recently approved therapies. While the PD community has tremendous cause for optimism about the advancements toward a cure, we also remain realistic about the work that lies ahead.
Dr Sherer highlights that the PD field has made greater progress over the past two decades than in the two centuries that came before. Just some examples of these are:
- The field of genetics research has opened doors to a new understanding of the disease and greatly increased opportunities to slow, stop or even reverse its progression.
- Ongoing studies are now addressing undertreated non-motor symptoms, including pain, fatigue and cognitive and mood changes.
- Risk factors including loss of the sense of smell, certain sleep disorders and even ethnicity are helping us identify and study at-risk populations to devise strategies for earlier diagnosis and treatment.
- Research into the delivery of medications such as skin patches, inhalers and other devices could vastly improve patients’ quality of life.
- Longitudinal observational studies are bringing us closer than ever to the development of biomarkers
Dr. Sherer discusses the patient-focused partnerships that are driving progress, emphasizing the extremely vital role every Parkinson’s family plays in speeding development of promising treatments. He describes a dramatic shift from when Michael J. Fox launched the Foundation in 2000, to today, where the “key players — industry, government, researchers and non-profit groups — are now at the table alongside patients who are actively engaged in their own health and helping to find a cure.”
It’s important to acknowledge how far we’ve come in the 200 years since the disease was defined, but “this milestone isn’t necessarily cause for celebration,” Dr. Sherer writes. Instead, we forge ahead toward our goal of a cure for Parkinson’s and “with the participation of a robust and empowered community, we’ve never been closer.”
Shake It Up Australia Foundation together with The Michael J. Fox Foundation are funding multiple studies in Australia. Find out more about these and how you can get involved to help speed better treatments and ultimately a cure for Parkinson’s.