Up to one million people in the U.S. and seven to ten million worldwide have Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease marked by loss of voluntary movement, tremor and a host of non-motor symptoms, such as cognitive impairment, depression and gastrointestinal issues. Although current treatments help mitigate symptoms, they do not slow or stop disease progression or repair damage.
This reality could soon change. Scientists and clinicians are working to translate promising discoveries into clinical trials and, ultimately, better treatments for people with Parkinson’s. So what do the Parkinson’s disease therapies of the future look like? Here are a few insights:
1. Right person, right treatment, right time
No two Parkinson’s cases are exactly alike, emphasizing the need for personalized therapies. Thanks to an intricate and growing understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the disease, scientists are developing medications that will hit specific targets, such as clumps of abnormal proteins associated with disease onset. Developing an arsenal of these drugs will give doctors more tools to tailor therapeutic regimens to each person.
2. Refocusing and repurposing
Some of the future therapies for Parkinson’s may already exist as drugs approved to treat other conditions. This approach, called drug repurposing, helps accelerate the development of new therapies by using drugs that have already passed rigorous safety and efficacy tests for other diseases and have shown promise in preclinical laboratory studies for treating Parkinson’s. It also may reduce the time and cost required to translate a discovery to the clinic, a process that often costs more than $1 billion over the course of a decade.
3. Enhanced precision
Currently, there is no definitive test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. However, scientists are zeroing in on promising indicators that not only will help doctors detect the disease earlier and with more certainty, but that also will allow them to stratify the disease into subtypes. Several of these indicators, called biomarkers, have been identified and scientists are working to refine their findings and translate them into useable clinical tests.
Thanks to an unprecedented amount of data and discovery bolstered by an active advocate community, we are on the cusp of developing therapies that not only reduce symptoms but that repair the mechanisms that go awry in the disease. A new day is dawning that will bring with it innovative therapies that slow or stop progression and improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s.