Luxembourg Parkinson’s Study Awarded €6M From FNR for Second Phase

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by Mary Chapman |

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Continuing its support of a collaborative Parkinson’s disease (PD) study, the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) has awarded the National Centre for Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s Disease (NCER-PD) €6 million ($6.68 million) for its second phase.

Comprised primarily of five research partners, the four-year-old Luxembourg-based NCER-PD is conducting an eight-year longitudinal study to better understand how PD works. The goal is to diagnose people with Parkinson’s earlier, so that better treatments can be developed. It’s said to be the first inter-institutional research program of its kind in Luxembourg.

Called the Luxembourg Parkinson’s Study, the ongoing research effort aims to find and validate diagnostic biomarkers by studying clinical data, and blood, urine, and other samples from 800 Parkinson’s patients, and 800 healthy individuals in a similarly structured control group.  About 1,000 people live with PD in Luxembourg. The study is about 100 participants short per group. Patients and healthy men over age 65 are invited to join. Go here for more information.

After four years, the study’s participant numbers already put it among the top 7% of the largest Parkinson’s groups globally, a press release said. One thing that sets it apart, the investigators said, is that participants will be assessed annually over the years. The data collected should give scientists greater insight into disease progression.

“The National Centre of Excellence in Research on Parkinson’s disease is a wonderful example of how research in Luxembourg can achieve outstanding international visibility and at the same time produce a direct impact on healthcare by bringing together patients, researchers, doctors and healthcare professionals,” said Marc Schiltz, FNR secretary general.

Collaborators in the NCER-PD include the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine of the University of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Institute of Health and its Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg, the Laboratoire National de Sante, and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg. NCER-PD also works with hospitals, patient groups, physicians, and other healthcare providers in Luxembourg and surrounding areas.

The NCER-PD was created in 2015 with €8.3 million($9.25M) from the FNR. The new grant will take the project through 2023.

During the next four-year funding period, as participants’ health is monitored, researchers will focus on further categorizing the study groups — a process known as cohort stratification. In addition, the NCER-PD will, for the first time, create a subcohort, or subgroup, based on genetic analysis. In the search for new treatments, researchers will conduct specific tests and personalized clinical trials with participants with mutations in the GBA gene. Such patients tend to have a higher risk of cognitive changes, and earlier age of onset.

The researchers noted that a significant number of people with REM sleep behavior disorder eventually develop Parkinson’s. The team will develop a study group with these participants, which it will closely monitor for additional insight into disease onset and development.

“Parkinson’s disease is a very complex disease with many symptoms and manifestations,” said Rejko Kruger, NCER-PD coordinator. “By studying subgroups of patients, as we have planned for NCER-PD’s second phase, one can better understand the underlying mechanisms and contribute to the development of tailored therapies.”

Despite the study’s relatively short duration thus far, Kruger said it’s already increasing awareness and knowledge of Parkinson’s disease.

“Through communication campaigns and close collaboration with patient associations in Luxembourg and the Greater Region, we informed patients, but also the general public, about the disease, its treatment options and current state of research,” he said. “This plays an important role in reducing stigmatism of people with this chronic disease.”