NEW YORK, June 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for
Parkinson's Research (MJFF) announced today that it has awarded approximately
$2 million to researchers to carry out four clinical studies under its
recently launched Clinical Discovery Program. The Clinical Discovery Program
is intended to stimulate well-designed clinical research projects focused on
potentially high-impact approaches to the field of Parkinson's disease.
Funding for the program was made possible by a gift from The Pioneer Fund, a
private family foundation that supports endeavors including medical research.
"The Fox Foundation's innovative approach to accelerating a cure for
Parkinson's reflects the pioneering spirit of our founder, philanthropist
Helen M. McLoraine," said Scott Hamilton, Olympic gold medalist and Pioneer
Fund Board member. "We are impressed that The Michael J. Fox Foundation is a
lean organization that has chosen not to build an endowment, but instead to
disperse the money they raise quickly to researchers on the front line."
The Pioneer Fund is a private family foundation established by Helen M.
McLoraine, a pioneer who broke new ground for women by assuming leadership
roles in the oil and gas business in the 1950s. Influenced by her mother, Mrs.
McLoraine established The Pioneer Fund to continue her lifelong support of
projects and organizations that focus on medical research, education and
social welfare. As a philanthropist, Mrs. McLoraine also supported more than
50 amateur skaters including Scott Hamilton.
Currently, there is limited funding available for researchers to carry out
small-to-medium sized innovative clinical research projects applying current
knowledge regarding Parkinson's disease directly to patients and patient care.
"The Foundation is working to bridge the disparity that exists between
scientists who don't have the resources to validate their hypotheses in the
clinic and industry that has no incentive to support projects before a
hypothesis is validated because it's too much of a risk," said Deborah W.
Brooks, president and chief executive officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation
for Parkinson's Research. "We've taken a strategic look at roadblocks to new
therapies and this was one of several areas where we think we can make a
The Foundation awarded a grant to a team in China to carry out the
first-ever multi-center, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study to
investigate the safety, tolerability and potential neuroprotective effects of
green tea polyphenols in people with Parkinson's disease. The team will work
in collaboration with Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member Caroline M.
Tanner, MD, PhD who has extensive clinical expertise. If successful, the study
could lead to the development of an inexpensive, non-pharmaceutical therapy to
slow or stop the progression of the disease. Green tea polyphenols are natural
anti-oxidants found in green tea and used in many countries for the treatment
of heart disease and cancer. The study will enroll approximately 400 people
with early stage Parkinson's disease. A network of Parkinson's research
centers and the Chinese Ministry of Health will collaborate on the project.
Another grant recipient will test a novel strength training technique to
improve respiration and swallowing in people who have developed dysphagia, a
common condition experienced by people with Parkinson's disease that occurs
when the muscles that are involved in swallowing weaken or do not work
properly. People with dysphagia have trouble swallowing and are at increased
risk of inhaling food or liquids into the airways, which can lead to a
condition known as "aspiration pneumonia" -- the leading cause of death in
people with Parkinson's.
Given that currently there are no treatments for dysphagia, this pilot
study has the potential to have an immediate impact on patient care.
Two other teams are using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in
novel ways to quantify changes in the brain associated with the onset of
Parkinson's disease and co-morbid conditions. One project seeks to quantify
reductions in cortical acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity (cholinergic
deficits) that occur in people with Parkinson's and Parkinson's-associated
dementia. Researchers believe that reductions in AChEs may be responsible for
cognitive impairment commonly seen in people with Parkinson's. Dopaminergic
therapies don't reverse cognitive impairment, suggesting that targeting the
cholinergic system could be beneficial. AChEs are currently used to treat
people with Alzheimer's but may be even more valuable for people with
The other project will use PET imaging to compare the blood brain barrier
of people with Parkinson's disease to those who do not have the disease. It is
hypothesized that biochemical changes that occur in the blood brain barrier of
people with Parkinson's could allow greater accumulation of environmental
toxins in the brain. If researchers are able to quantify these changes they
may be able to identify people with the disease early and to track disease
progression, as well as enable the targeted development of therapies that may
restore normal blood brain barrier function.
The Clinical Discovery Program is an investigator-initiated, peer-reviewed
program that provides funding for clinical research projects over the course
of up to three years. Continuation of funding will be dependent upon the
achievement of mutually agreed upon milestones. A scientific review committee
consisting of biostatisticians, clinicians, clinical trial experts and others
reviewed all applications.
The following is a complete list of researchers who were awarded grants
under the Clinical Discovery Program initiative:
Nicolaas I. Bohnen, MD, PhD
University of Pittsburgh
Executive, ADL and Cholinergic Functions in PD
Piu Chan, MD, PhD
Xuanwu Hospital of Capital University of Medical Sciences
A Randomized, Double-blind, and Placebo-control Study to Assess the
Ability of Slowing Disease Progression and Safety and Tolerability of
Green Tea Polyphenols in Patients With Early Parkinson's Disease
K.L. Leenders, MD, PhD
University Medical Centre Groningen
P-glycoprotein Dysfunction of the Blood-brain Barrier in Parkinson's
Christine Sapienza, PhD
University of Florida
Strength Training Patients With Parkinson's Disease for Dysphagia
To date, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has
invested approximately $52 million in research aimed at finding a cure for the
disease. For more information on The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's
Research, visit http://www.michaeljfox.org.
SOURCE The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research