Michael J. Fox Foundation Awards 3 Trial Centers $125,000 in New Parkinson’s Trial Recruitment Program

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) is giving three clinical trial centers a $125,000 incentive to increase accessibility and volunteer enrollment in Parkinson’s disease (PD) studies as part of its new Parkinson’s Disease Trial Recruitment Innovation (PD-TRI) program.

The centers – Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts; and Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon – were selected due to their comprehensive clinical research portfolio, strong infrastructure for executing Parkinson’s trials, and commitment to provide innovative solutions for recruiting research volunteers.

Clinical trials are essential to finding new and better treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Having volunteer participants is fundamental to completing trials successfully and to develop new therapies; however, finding participants is challenging and often leads to increased costs and even to studies being abandoned.

Not knowing about research opportunities, having negative perceptions of the trial process, and having poor choices of transportation have been shown to be significant barriers to bringing eligible individuals to clinical trials.

The PD-TRI program hopes to improve the recruitment of volunteers and consequently advance research by rewarding centers working to overcome these challenges.

As part of the PD-TRI program, each center will address the above-mentioned main barriers to trial participation by promoting:

  • The creation of a clinical trial referral network of local practitioners;
  • The use of behavioral economics principles to build bridges between volunteer awareness and trial opportunities;
  • The engagement of caregivers to make trials more accessible to patients with Parkinson’s cognitive impairment;
  • Free transportation to and from study sites in partnership with Lyft Concierge, a transportation service that works to meet the needs of an aging population.

Each trial center will evaluate the impact of their selected interventions by performing ongoing qualitative and quantitative assessments. The sites will submit their experiences to peer-reviewed journals to inform trial recruitment practices elsewhere and accelerate Parkinson’s research.

“Clinical trial sites enroll, on average, only one volunteer per month,” Sohini Chowdhury, MJFF’s deputy CEO, said in a press release. “This contributes to the lengthy process of Parkinson’s drug development, and PD-TRI aims to advance understanding of recruitment to address this challenge.”

Last year, the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) launched a series of in-person educational seminars titled “Parkinson’s Disease: Spotlight on Clinical Trials — What You Need to Know” to spread vital information about PD trials across the United Sates.

The program was designed to provide an expert perspective on the importance of clinical trials for the advancement of Parkinson’s research and to help those affected by the disease better understand what clinical trials are, why they are so important, and the different ways one can become a trial participant.

A summary of the information discussed in these seminars, with information on how to find and participate in a clinical trial, is available here.