Parkinson’s patients ‘walk and talk again’ when taking cancer drug

A cancer drug tested on people with Parkinson’s disease has produced remarkable results apparently not only stopping progress but reversing symptoms.

The drug, called nilotinib is used to treat patients with a certain type of leukaemia. But in a small clinical trial in the US, 12 people with Parkinson’s disease or a similar condition called “dementia with Lewy bodies” were given small doses of nilotinib for a six-month period with startling results.

Dr Charbel Moussa, who led the study at Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC, said: “We’ve seen patients at end stages of the disease coming back to life. We had people as stiff as a board at the start of the study, who were walking around, sitting down and bending their legs by the end,” he said. Dr Pagan added: “They were brighter and more fluent in speech, and they had a lot more energy. It was like an awakening for them.”

Nilotinib appears to work by boosting the ability to clear out proteins which accumulate in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s disease. These proteins are believed to trigger the death of brain cells which make molecules like dopamine needed for movement and other functions.

Dr Moussa and his fellow researchers plan larger trials with nilotinib for patients with Parkinson’s and other diseases including Alzheimer’s, likely to begin next year so see whether similar effects are observed.

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