Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards Approximately $2 Million For Four Parkinson's Clinical Studies

Jun 30, 2005, 01:00 ET from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

    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