Cancer Drug Nilotinib Believed to Slow or Halt Parkinson’s Disease & Alzheimer’s Disease Scheduled for Rigorous Testing

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Mar 19, 2017 09:18 PM EDT

Researchers have long been trying to find a single cure for aggressive brain diseases such as the Parkinson's disease and the Alzheimer's disease. To date, all efforts, even to slow them down have failed. That's why scientists are looking forward to the upcoming clinical trials of the cancer drug, nilotinib.

In late 2015, scientists at the Georgetown University Medical Center run a clinical trial involving nilotinib, an FDA-approved drug for treating Leukemia. During this particular study, NPR reported that the cancer drug nilotinib appeared to reduce the symptoms in people having Parkinson's disease with dementia.

The 2015 study involved 12 patients who were given small doses of nilotinib for 6 months. The outcome of this study revealed that 11 of the participants have improved mental and movement function, showing massive potential in finding a cure for Parkinson's Disease & Alzheimer's Disease.

According to Fernando Pagan, director of the Movement Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, the result of the 2015 study is promising. Of the 12 participants, one patient regained the ability to feed herself, one man was able to stop using a walker, and three nonverbal patients were able to speak again. The result of this study was reported at the Society for Neuroscience convention in Chicago.

Backed up with the 2015 study, experts are upbeat about nilotinib's potential as a drug for combating Parkinson's Disease & Alzheimer's Disease. That said, Georgetown is scheduled to launch more rigorous trials involving nilotinib.

The trials would be launched in two parts and would involve 75 and 42 patients with Parkinson's Disease & Alzheimer's Disease, respectively. Both the trials are designed with input from the FDA.

Pagan, also the medical director of the translational neurotherapeutics program at Georgetown, says that the two trials would help in identifying which results may have been a placebo effect and which may have been a direct result of the medication. The cancer drug nilotinib is believed to work by eliminating toxic proteins in the brains of people with Parkinson's Disease & Alzheimer's Disease.

That said, the cancer drug nilotinib facilitates the activation of a certain area in the brain cells that functions as a sort of garbage disposal. Pagan suggests that once the mechanism is turned on, nilotinib may be able to degrade the proteins in the brain cells, thus potentially stop the progression of Parkinson's Disease & Alzheimer's Disease.

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