Podcast Episode 60: What is a Disease Modifying Therapy in PD?

Researchers and clinicians are learning that Parkinson’s disease (PD) is an umbrella term that covers similar but distinct variants of the disease that may result from differences in biology. Symptoms may be similar, but each person’s disease may have different features, rate of progression, needs, and treatments connected to the specific underlying cause. In this era of “personalized” medicine, a goal is to treat each person’s condition according to their unique disease. To do so, neurologists will need to be able to define and identify those differences (“biomarkers”) that will allow a truly personalized approach to treatment. A biomarker is a measurable indicator of a normal or abnormal bodily function. Examples are imaging such as MRI, chemicals in the blood or brain, brain wave patterns, sleep cycles, or even specific signs and symptoms.

Having biomarkers indicative of specific variants of the disease could help to design clinical trials to test therapies. It would allow researchers to include individuals with similar underlying biology when they test a potential new drug to be able to understand if it works for that form of PD. In a trial that included people falling under the umbrella term of “PD,” for example, researchers could see who benefited from the drug and then examine them to see what biomarkers they had in common. In this podcast, Dr. Anthony Lang, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s Disease at the Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, discusses the need for biomarkers when searching for disease-modifying therapies – those treatments that can actually modify the course of PD and not just treat its symptoms. And he tells us why it is sometimes hard to tell the two apart.

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About This Episode

Released: July 30, 2019

Anthony E. Lang, OC, MD, FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS, FRSC.

Dr. Lang is a Professor and previous Director of the Division of Neurology at the University of Toronto where he holds the Jack Clark Chair for Parkinson’s Disease Research. He is the Director of the Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s Disease and the Morton and Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Clinic and holds the Lily Safra Chair in Movement Disorders at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. He is one of the most highly cited investigators in the field of Movement Disorders with over 700 peer-reviewed papers published or in press.

Dr. Lang has served the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) in many capacities: on the MDS Executive Committee as Treasurer from 1988-1992, Secretary from 1996-1998 and then President from 2007- 2009 and CoEditor-in-Chief of the Movement Disorders between 1996 and 2003 inclusive and in 2014 he was made an Honorary Member of the Society and received the first MDS Pan-American Section Leadership Award in 2017.

He has given many named lectures including the MDS Stanley Fahn Lecture and the World Federation of Neurology’s Melvin Yahr lectureship, both in 2011, and the Association of British Neurologists’ Gordon Holmes Lecture in 2015. Among his awards and distinctions he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010; in 2011 he was elected a Fellow of both the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada; in 2014 he received the Scopus Award from the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University for “outstanding contributions to the field of movement disorders” and was elected by the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) as an Honorary Member “in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the field of Movement Disorders”; and In 2017 he was the recipient of the first MDS Pan-American Section Leadership Award. In 2018 he received the Weston Brain Institute International Outstanding Achievement Award for work in accelerating the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.

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