Elderly patient

UHP and UCL to collaborate in clinical trial for Parkinson’s treatment

An Honorary Consultant Neurologist at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UHP), is now able to co-lead the Accelerating Clinical Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease project, following a £1.375m grant from the charity, Edmond J. Safra Foundation.

This will involve establishing a multi-arm multi-stage clinical trial platform, where potential protective therapies will be quickly assessed. These therapies will be those aimed at either slowing down or stopping the progression of Parkinson’s.

At the early stage of trailing prospective therapies, they will be quickly removed and replaced if they are shown to be ineffective. This platform will allow 12 drugs to be initiated in a trial over five years. Previously this would have taken 40 years and ten times as many patients, using established protocols.

The project will be co-led by Professors Thomas Foltynie and Sonia Gandhi at the University College London’s (UCL) Movement Disorders Centre, and Dr Camille Carroll at UHP, and carried out in partnership with the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at UCL.

Dr Camille Carroll, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at UHP, Associate Professor at the University of Plymouth, and NIHR Specialty Lead for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said: “The funding provided by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation will enable a sea of change in how we investigate therapies that could slow or stop Parkinson’s progression. We are very pleased to be partnering with colleagues at UCL to realise the vision of developing this trial platform for Parkinson’s.

“The UK is the right place to deliver this ambitious, world-leading project, which we hope will herald the beginning of the end of Parkinson’s.”

Current treatments are only able to alleviate symptoms, but are unable to alter the course of the disease. This is viewed as being a new approach to clinical trial design, aiming to tackle inefficiencies in “conventional” trial models, enabling multiple drugs to be tested simultaneously, and seamlessly transitioned from early to later stage clinical testing.

Professor Thomas Foltynie, Professor of Neurology in the Department of Clinical and Movement Neurosciences at UCL, said: “We are delighted to embark on this project with the support of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation. Our existing process of ‘one drug at a time’ is far too inefficient, and it is high time that we had a platform capable of assessing multiple approaches simultaneously.

“This project will revolutionise the way we perform clinical trials of potentially disease-modifying drugs for people with Parkinson’s.”

Mrs Lily Safra, Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, said: “I am so incredibly proud to be able to offer our support to those undertaking visionary research at UCL and the University of Plymouth. I have witnessed first-hand the effects that Parkinson’s has on patients and their loved ones, and I feel great hope and excitement at the prospect of the Edmond J. Safra ACT-PD Initiative identifying the treatments which hold the promise of a brighter future.”

The charity has shown a significant amount of support for Parkinson's research and patient care at many worldwide hospitals and institutes. The project will run until 2023 and will also be supported by the NIHR, providing expertise in trial development and provision of trial delivery infrastructure across UK healthcare. During this time, the project team will design the trial platform.

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