Northwestern Medicine

Researchers Seek Additional Participants for Landmark Parkinson's Disease Study

Northwestern Memorial Hospital December 19, 2011

Northwestern Medicine is among the top enrollment sites for international, five-year study

CHICAGO, IL – Nearly 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, with another 50,000 to 60,000 cases diagnosed each year. Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that progresses over time, yet there is currently no definitive diagnosis or cure. In hopes of advancing research, individuals from across the country are volunteering to help scientists gather information that may allow them to better understand the disease. They are participating in the landmark Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study, which seeks to identify biomarkers, or objectively measureable characteristics, for Parkinson’s. Northwestern’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center is the only enrollment site in Illinois for the $40 million, five-year study.

“We know that people with Parkinson’s disease have deficient dopamine levels; dopamine is the chemical in the brain responsible for movement,” said Tanya Simuni, MD, director Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center, neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “In recent years, research has lead to advancements in both diagnosis of Parkinson’s and management of its symptoms. However, there’s still much to be learned about the disease.”

PPMI is an observational study, meaning that participants do not receive experimental drugs or treatments, but undergo numerous tests and assessments of bodily processes related to Parkinson’s. The study will develop the largest collection of clinical, imaging and biologic specimens ever created in the Parkinson’s community.

“A combination of advanced imaging, biological sampling and behavioral assessments are used to track people who are newly diagnosed in hopes of identifying biomarkers of the disease progression,” explained Simuni, the principal investigator for the study at Northwestern Medicine.

The study uses imaging techniques, including DaTscan, the first diagnostic tool for the assessment of Parkinson’s, combined with collection of blood, urine and spinal fluid, as well as clinical examinations to track for potential changes that may indicate the progression of the disease.

Launched in September 2010, PPMI has 163 participants to-date at 22 sites across the United States and Europe. Northwestern Medicine has enrolled 20 participants, making it one of the top enrollment sites, and continues to seek both people with and without Parkinson’s for participation. Funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, PPMI seeks to enroll 400 people with Parkinson’s and 200 people who do not have the disease over five years. To be considered for enrollment, people with Parkinson’s must be at least 30 years old and have not begun taking medication or have taken it for less than 60 days.

“Participation in a study, like PPMI, is a generous act on the part of participants and a contribution to science and medicine,” said Simuni. “Large scale research studies have the potential to help us better understand Parkinson’s which can unlock developments in its treatment and may eventually help find its cure.

For information about the PPMI study or to inquire about enrollment, call 312.503.5645. To find a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, call 312.926.0779. 

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Megan McCann
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Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern Memorial Hospital 312.926.5900