2023 Update: New Parkinson’s Disease Treatments in the Clinical Trial Pipeline

New Parkinson’s Medication on the Horizon

The development of potential new medications for Parkinson’s disease (PD) medications remains very active, with multiple new medications in various stages of research development that are aiming to treat and slow down PD.

In past blogs, we have reviewed the various mechanisms of action that are being studied to see if they result in successful slowing of disease progression.

These treatment mechanisms include:

  • Targeting abnormal alpha-synuclein aggregation
  • Increasing activity of GLP-1, a strategy which may block activation of immune cells in the brain
  • Other strategies of decreasing inflammation in the brain
  • Increasing the activity of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase to enhance the cell’s lysosomal or garbage disposal system
  • Decreasing activity of the proteins LRRK2 or c-Abl to decrease neurodegeneration
  • Improving function of the mitochondria – the energy-producing element of the nerve cell – to support the health of the neurons
  • Increasing neurotrophic factors to enhance nerve survival
  • Using cell based therapies to restore healthy nerves in the brain
  • Decreasing oxidative stress in the brain

Most of the compounds presented in prior blogs are continuing to be studied in various stages of clinical trials.

You can view these past blogs below:

Here are additional medications that we are keeping our eye on in 2023 and into 2024

Test Tubes in a Laboratory

You can read more about each of the clinical trials mentioned by following the links provided. Each is associated with an NCT number on clinicaltrials.gov, a database of all the clinical trials for all diseases worldwide. Each link also provides the contact information for each trial if you would like to find out more about the possibility of participating in the trial.)

Decreasing activity of LRRK2

BIIB122: One compound that is successfully moving through the research pipeline is BIIB122. We previously reported on a Phase 1 study of a small molecule LRRK2 inhibitor known at the time as DNL151. The results of that study were published, and this molecule now called BIIB122, is being tested to see its efficacy in a much larger group of people.

Mutations (a change in the DNA sequence) in the LRRK2 (Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2) gene represent a common genetic cause of PD. LRRK2 plays several roles in the cell and mutations that increase its enzymatic activity are thought to cause neurodegeneration. BIIB122 is a small molecule that decreases the activity of LRRK2. The current study NCT05418673 is evaluating whether taking BIIB122 slows the progression of PD more than placebo in the early stages of PD. The study will focus on participants with specific genetic variants in their LRRK2 gene.

Targeting abnormal alpha-synuclein aggregation

Butanetap: Buntanetap is a small molecule that suppresses the translation of DNA into messenger RNA of several neurotoxic proteins. This group of neurotoxic proteins produces insoluble clumps that accumulate in nerve cells, disrupting the cell’s normal function. One of these proteins is alpha-synuclein, which abnormally accumulates in PD.  In early studies, Buntanetap showed reduction of inflammation and preservation of axonal integrity and synaptic function. The current study NCT05357989 is designed tomeasure safety and efficacy of Buntanetap compared with placebo in participants with early PD.

Decreasing oxidative stress in the brain

Sulfuraphane: Sulfuraphane is an antioxidant, found in dark green vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts. It is currently being studied NCT05084365 to see if it improves motor and cognitive function in PD.

Decreasing activity of the c-Abl kinase

IKT-148009: IKT-148009 is a small molecule that decreases the activity of c-Abl, an enzyme that acts on a wide range of targets within the cell, supporting many different cellular functions. Research suggests that overactivation of c-Abl is a downstream effect of oxidative stress and may play a role in neurodegeneration in PD. There is also research to suggest that increased c-Abl activation correlates with alpha-synuclein aggregation. These findings and others led to the possibility that inhibiting c-Abl may be a helpful strategy in PD therapy. The current study NCT05424276 is investigating whether decreasing the activity of c-Abl in early, untreated people with PD is safe and tolerable, and whether it improves motor and non-motor features of the disease.

Cell-based therapy

Bemdaneprocel (BRT-DA01, previously known as MSK-DA01): A recently-completed Phase 1 study investigated the surgical transplantation of dopaminergic neuron precursor cells into the brains of people with PD. In an open label study (one without a control group) of 12 people, the treatment was found to be safe and well-tolerated. Transplantation of the cells was feasible and resulted in successful cell survival and engraftment. A phase 2 study is currently being planned for early 2024.

Decreasing inflammation

RO-7486967/selnoflast: – RO-7486967 is a small molecule that inhibits the NLRP3 inflammasome, a complex of proteins involved in inflammation that is thought to be overactive in PD. The current study NCT05924243 will investigate whether this molecule is safe and tolerable in early stages of PD.

New mechanism of action: Targeting cell death

KM819:  Apoptosis, a series of organized molecular steps that leads to programmed cell death, is a normal part of cell function.  When this system goes awry however, cells may die when they are not supposed to. KM819 is a small molecule inhibitor of Fas-associated factor1 (FAF1), a key regulator of cell death. It is being investigated to see if decreasing the process of cell death will protect neurons in PD. The current study NCT05670782 is testing this compound in both healthy adults and people with PD.

The Parkinson’s Hope List

We continue to thank Dr. Kevin McFarthing, a biochemist and person with Parkinson’s for his efforts in creating and maintaining The Parkinson’s Hope List — a collation of all the compounds that are being explored as new therapies for PD at all stages of the research pipeline and is updated frequently. It is an excellent source of information for those interested in the current state of PD research focused on new potential treatments. APDA was privileged to host Dr. McFarthing as a special guest on our broadcast entitled Dr. Gilbert Hosts:Taking Research From the Lab to our Lives.

Dr. McFarthing and his colleagues put together a yearly review of the medications for Parkinson’s disease in clinical trials. The year 2023’s review can be accessed here. Dr. McFarthing and colleagues reported that as of January 2023, there were nearly 139 Parkinson’s therapies active in the clinical trial pipeline as registered on the www.clinicaltrials.gov website involving almost 17,000 participants. Of these drugs tested, 76 (55%) trials were focused on symptomatic treatment (STs), medications that attempt ameliorate the symptoms of PD; and 63 (45%) were disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), medications that attempt to slow the progression of the disease. The pipeline grew in the past year, with 35 newly registered trials (18 ST and 17 DMT trials). Most of these clinical trials (34%) are in Phase 1 (early-stage of clinical testing, primarily performed to assess for safety), while 52% have progressed to Phase 2 testing stage (mid-stage, performed in small numbers of people with PD to assess for efficacy), followed by 14% currently in Phase 3 (late-stage trials, performed in larger numbers of people with PD to assess for efficacy).

APDA proudly funds innovative work

APDA recently announced its newly-funded research grantees for the 2023-2024 academic year. Our new pool of grantees are working on many of the strategies discussed above and will continue to push the field of PD research forward, introducing new ideas to the field and new possibilities in PD therapy.

Here are some examples:

  1. Dr. Nikhil Panicker is investigating the NRLP3 inflammasome. He is exploring whether reducing the activation of the inflammasome within microglia can protect neurons from accumulating alpha-synuclein in a cell model of PD.
  2. Dr. William Zeiger is studying the mechanisms by which the abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein cause thinking and memory problems in PD.
  3. Dr. Naemeh Pourshafie is studying the relationship between tau and alpha-synuclein, two proteins that abnormally accumulate in neurodegenerative diseases.  

We are so proud to help make this vital work possible!

Tips and takeaways

  • There is hope in progress, with multiple treatment strategies in the PD research pipeline.
  • Potential treatments are generally divided into two large categories: disease modifying therapies and symptomatic treatments.
  • Mechanisms of action that are being studied to alter the progression of PD include: decreasing activity of LRRK2, decreasing aggregation of alpha-synuclein, decreasing oxidative stress in the brain, decreasing activity of c-Abl, introducing dopaminergic neurons into the brain, decreasing inflammation, and inhibiting programmed cell death.
  • APDA supports essential research, bringing new ideas to fruition in the treatment of PD. Read more about past work we have funded, and the projects that we are funding this year.
  • We need your support in order to continue this extremely valuable research. Click here to make a donation.

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