News articles

Researchers test whether diabetes drug can help Parkinson’s patients

14 July 2014

A trial to test whether a diabetes drug may help slow down Parkinson's disease is under way at the newly opened Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC) Clinical Facility at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN). 

The first patient has been dosed with Exenatide, a licensed drug used since 2005 to treat patients with Type 2 diabetes, and which appears to have neuro-protective properties.

Thomas Foltynie, a consultant neurologist at the NHNN and Senior Lecturer at UCL Institute of Neurology, is the Chief Investigator of this clinical trial (funded by the Michael J Fox Foundation) in which patients affected by Parkinson's disease will inject themselves with Exenatide over a 12-month period.

Patients will undergo clinical assessments, brain imaging and a collection of biological samples to gain insight into the safety and tolerability of the drug.

The benefits of Exenatide first came to light several years ago, when an initial study showed that the drug was able to rescue dying nerve cells. This trial follows on from encouraging results in a smaller study conducted at the UCL Institute of Neurology in 2013 in which 20 participants were exposed to Exenatide and 24 participants with the standard treatment (the control group) over 12 months.

Results showed that patients on Exenatide appeared essentially unchanged throughout and beyond the trial period, while the control group had an expected rate of gradual decline in movement and cognitive ability. Although the results of the study in 2013 provided strong encouragement for Exenatide as a potential disease-modifying agent in Parkinson’s disease, a larger trial was essential. The current trial aims to recruit 60 patients.

'Repositioning' medications that are already licensed for use in humans and show sufficient merit in the laboratory, greatly reduces the risk and cost of drug development in conditions such as Parkinson's. While we of course hope that this double blind trial shows positive results for PD patients, we also hope that this style of investigator-initiated trial can serve as a useful template for licensed drug repositioning in other neurological conditions

Dr Thomas Foltynie, Chief Investigator

The Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre (LWENC) Clinical Facility has been specifically designed to undertake experimental medicine studies and early phase clinical trials (including first-in-man studies) aiming at identifying potential disease modifying therapies in the field of neurology and neurodegeneration.

LWENC operates 24 hours a day through the partnership between the UCL Institute of Neurology and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN).

this is an exciting and important study that we are delighted to support. Running the study within a dedicated clinical research facility ensures robust regulatory compliance, the highest patient safety and provides the intensive resources needed to implement clinical trials"

Dr Vincenzo Libri, Head of the LWENC Clinical Facility

Further information 

Aviles-Olmos, I et al.  2013. Exenatide and the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease Journal of Clinical Investigation. 123(6):2730–2736. doi:10.1172/JCI68295

Opening of the LWENC for clinical trials

Contact details for queries:

Dr Thomas Foltynie
Consultant neurologist at the NHNN and Senior Lecturer at UCL Institute of Neurology
t.foltynie@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Rajeshree Khengar
Clinical Projects Lead/Senior Operational Manager
r.khengar@ucl.ac.uk

Dr Vincenzo Libri
Head of Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre
vincenzo.libri@ucl.ac.uk

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