A pilot study with twelve patients suffering from severe Parkinson’s disease offers surprising hope for reversing this hard-to-treat condition.
Patients received low doses of a powerful new anti-cancer drug called nilotinib. The brand name is Tasigna. This immunotherapy was first approved in the U.S. in 2007 to treat complicated cases of chronic mylegenous leukemia.
This Cancer Drug Improved Walking and Thinking:
In the preliminary study of Parkinson’s patients with dementia, the 11 who completed the trial improved their ability to move. They also demonstrated cognitive gains. Three patients who had lost the ability to speak began talking again.
Gains Faded at Study’s Close:
These benefits did not persist once the cancer drug was discontinued. Nevertheless, the advances are so striking that researchers are excited that this could represent a breakthrough.
How Much Will This Treatment Cost?
One concern is the high price of Tasigna. Treatment of leukemia patients costs thousands of dollars a month. If the drug lives up to early expectations, providing it for half a million Parkinson’s disease patients could have a significant impact on Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies.
The results of the trial were presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting on October 17, 2015. Jon Hamilton of NPR did an excellent report.