BETHESDA, Md. (WDVM) — Millions of people in the world are battling Parkinson’s disease, but researchers might be getting closer to better treatments.
Retired Professor of Medicine, Dr. Lawrence Lessin said,
“I was 78 years old when I was diagnosed, although I know I had symptoms,” said Dr. Lawrence Lessin, a retired professor of medicine.
After spending almost half his life fighting to keep his patients healthy, Dr. Lessin now faces his own battle with Parkinson’s. He’s currently on a medication called Rasagiline, prescribed by Dr. Fernando Pagan, who is teaming up with Dr. Charbel Moussa to run trials on Nilotinib, a drug used to treat leukemia.
“This already FDA-approved drug…we can use for the treatment of degenerative diseases to stop or hold cell death in the brain, and reverse the progression of the disease,” Dr. Moussa stated.
“In Parkinson’s disease, Nilotinib has been shown to reduce the production of protein accumulations in the cells of that part of the brain,” Dr. Lessin added.
The team is now moving into the third phase of a trial aiming to cure Parkinson’s.
“As we’re treating and modulating the diseases with medicines, maybe potentially find better treatments and potentially a cure,” Dr. Pagan stated.
Dr. Lawrence Lessin and his son, Dr. Jonathan Lessin, were diagnosed with Parkinson’s at different stages in their lives. Jonathan was diagnosed at 38 years old, 40 years earlier than his father. They’re on different treatment plans, with Jonathan undergoing deep brain stimulation, also known as DBS.
“You have more symptom control without the extra movements, so if I didn’t have DBS, I’d be on a lot of medication,” Jonathan said.
Outside of medicine, researchers say there’s another way patients can help manage the disease.
“Evidence shows that the best way to slow the progression of the disease is by exercise,” said Jared D. Cohen of the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA).
That’s why PFNCA provides over 250 education and wellness classes per month in the D.C. region, because experts say exercise is key.
“For me, the same way the disease is a progression, the tapering off of my professional activities has been a progression, as well,” said Bruce Wolff, the chairman of PFNCA’s board.
Speech language pathologist Susan Wranik says education is critical. She stresses that with proper treatment and working together, exercise and socialization are ways that Parkinson’s patients can manage and live successfully.
“We have to work, especially in Parkinson’s, as an interdisciplinary team,” she stated. “The doctors need to work, therapists, the dietitians. We all need to work together to see what the other person is doing.”
Some other current treatments include LSVT Loud and LSVT Big, which aim to increase vocal volume. The National Institutes of Health is also researching freezing episodes, a movement disorder many have when dealing with Parkinson’s.
But many experts are high on Georgetown University’s study on Nilotinib, which they say holds promise.
Doctors say it could take years before Nilotinib is approved to treat the disorder.
Video credits: The Parkinson Foundation and Georgetown University Medical Center