A drug which has been used to treat liver disease for over 30 years is being trialled in patients with Parkinson’s disease for the first time.
The groundbreaking study, led by researchers at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with the University of Sheffield whether ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) could potentially be repositioned to help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease currently affects around 145,000 people in the UK, with patients’ quality of life severely affected. Symptoms are mainly due to the loss of dopamine containing nerve cells in the area of the brain which controls movement. An important reason why these cells die in the brain of patients with Parkinson’s is due to a malfunction of the cell’s batteries – known as mitochondria.
The trial is being led by Professor Oliver Bandmann, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, whose team previously identified that UDCA was the most promising drug to rescue mitochondrial function in Parkinson’s in a drug screening assessment involving 2,000 drugs.
“After nearly a decade of research we are extremely pleased to launch the first clinical trial of UDCA in Parkinson’s patients to see if the drug is safe and tolerated,” said Professor Bandmann.
“This is a pilot trial, which if successful, will lead to a bigger study to firmly establish the effectiveness of the treatment to slow down progression of Parkinson’s. Currently, Parkinson’s is relentlessly progressive but patients tend to respond very well to symptomatic medication in the early stages of the disease.
“A drug which will slow down the progression of the disease – even after the first few years of diagnosis – would help people to have an improved quality of life for longer.”
Helen Matthews, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, said: “Through its International Linked Clinical Trials Programme, The Cure Parkinson’s Trust has been working towards bringing UDCA into clinical trials – and this trial is the first step in understanding the drug’s potential to slow Parkinson’s progression. We are delighted to be supporting Professor Bandmann’s important work.”
The trial, known as the UP Study (UDCA in Parkinson’s) will be conducted at two centres in the UK – Sheffield and London, in collaboration with Professor Tom Foltynie at University College London Hospitals. Working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Insilico Medicine (Insigneo), the NIHR Sheffield Clinical Research Facility at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and the National Institute for Health Research Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre.
The trial is being supported by the JP Moulton Charitable Foundation, The Cure Parkinson’s Trust and the pharmaceutical company PRO.MED.CS.