Diabetes Medicine Victoza in Clinical Trial for Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

Joana Fernandes, PhD avatar

by Joana Fernandes, PhD |

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Victoza (liraglutide), a drug therapy for type 2 diabetes, is currently being evaluated in an ongoing clinical study to slow or stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

This study is developed by the Linked Clinical Trials (LCT) initiative from The Cure Parkinson’s Trust in the United Kingdom, together with the Van Andel Research Institute, and is taking place at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Victoza was developed by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

“There is a great need to find therapies that impact the disease process — that is, to slow or actually halt it — rather than just mitigating symptoms,” Dr. Patrik Brundin, MD, PhD, from LCT, said in a news release.

“Investigating drugs already approved to treat other conditions and that have already undergone extensive testing provide a unique opportunity to more quickly move these potential new therapies into the clinic,” he said. “However, as with any investigational new treatment, we urge patience until the clinical studies are completed, which are critical for ensuring efficacy and safety.”

In patients with type 2 diabetes, Victoza exerts its action by activating glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptors, which will induce insulin production and, consequently, the reduction of blood glucose. Recent findings suggest that Victoza may also activate these receptors in the brain and promote molecular mechanisms that confer protection against neuronal damage associated with Parkinson’s disease.

“The investigational use of liraglutide is a reflection of our scientific progress and improved understanding of Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Michele Tagliati, MD. “Given the increasing evidence of a possible role of insulin resistance in neurodegeneration, we expect [liraglutide] to have a great impact on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and its progression. A remarkable aspect of this new avenue of research is the focus on mechanisms that may address both motor and non-motor features of the disease.”

Other drugs are being investigated in trials led by LCT, including exenatide (brand name Byetta or Bydureon), which has a similar action to Victoza and that has been shown to have a beneficial role in patients with Parkinson’s; ambroxol (a compound used in the treatment of respiratory diseases and the active ingredient in many medicines); and Zocor (simvastatin), used to reduce cholesterol levels.

The use of existing drugs can become another option to tackle Parkinson’s disease, especially considering that current therapies include drug treatment with levodopa and surgery to induce brain stimulation. Although these drugs do not stop neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s, they can have a positive impact on quality of life.

In the meantime, Parkinson’s disease experts continue the active search for drugs that may not only reduce the symptoms but also slow or stop Parkinson’s progression.

“This trial provides people like me who live with Parkinson’s real hope that we are on the brink of a paradigm shift for the better,” Tom Isaacs, president and co-founder of The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, said in the news release. “There is an urgent need to identify and develop these potentially new therapies to improve the quality of life for everyone around the world who lives with this condition.”

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