The year 2019 was particularly fruitful for researchers studying Parkinson’s Disease. Whether it was basic research (to acquire new knowledge on the causes and mechanisms of the disease), or clinical research (directly with patients), this year brought many avenues of hope for the entire Parkinson’s community.
Why is research on Parkinson’s advancing more slowly than we’d like?
Before reviewing the major research advances, it is important to understand why Parkinson’s research progresses so slowly. Here are a few explanations:
Each patient living with Parkinson’s Disease is different. It is therefore difficult to develop a drug that meets everyone’s needs.
Lots of promising clinical research is underway. However, every year, numerous trials find treatments ineffective for several reasons:
- Parkinson’s Disease is not diagnosed based on a biomarker test (e.g., blood test, imaging). It is a difficult clinical diagnosis. Up to 20% of people enrolled in trials do not have classic Parkinson’s. So these new treatments are not intended for them and the average response in the entire population participating in the study is negative.
- Parkinson’s Disease could be considered several diseases combined that present different symptoms and causes depending on the individual. Thus, these new drugs may provoke good responses in certain patients while they are ineffective in others. Again, the average response in the population can be negative.
- Personalized medicine to provide individualized treatments to patients according to their needs seems particularly indicated for the treatment of Parkinson’s. However, perfecting these treatments for small groups of patients is a lengthy process because it is difficult to recruit them for clinical trials (there aren’t many). Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry often is less incentivized to develop this type of treatment since it views them as unprofitable because they are intended for very small populations.
- Lastly, Parkinson’s Disease develops slowly, in most cases. Assessing the effectiveness of new treatments therefore takes a long time and requires recruiting many patients for studies. This is why many researchers are trying to find precise, quick and sensitive markers of the development of the disease.
Moreover, researchers have better identified these problems in recent years to accelerate the process of developing new drugs.