Spectramax Light Therapy Shows Promise in Easing Parkinson’s Non-motor Symptoms

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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PhotoPharmics’s Spectramax light therapy reduces disease severity, lessens non-motor symptoms, and improves the quality of life of Parkinson’s patients, according to recent results of a controlled clinical study.

The study,“Double-blind controlled trial of Spectramax™ light therapy for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease patients on stable dopaminergic therapy” was presented at the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders (MDS), held Oct. 5-9, in Hong Kong, China.

Besides the well-known motor symptoms, Parkinson’s disease also is characterized by non-motor symptoms, such as cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, depression, and pain.

These non-motor symptoms may occur years before Parkinson’s hallmark loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells and motor symptoms’ onset and usually are resistant to dopaminergic medications.

Parkinson’s patients also have a dysregulated circadian rhythm — the natural “body-clock” that regulates essential functions such as sleep, rest-activity rhythm, and metabolism — which has been increasingly associated with the development of the disease’s motor and non-motor symptoms.

Previous preclinical studies have suggested that light therapy improves the circadian rhythm and may be an effective therapy for both motor and non-motor features of Parkinson’s disease.

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“Therapeutic light is the most powerful tool for circadian regulation, and based on our experience in treating circadian-related disorders with specific bandwidth phototherapy, we believe we can make a major difference in treating PD,” Dan Adams, PhotoPharmics’s science officer, said in a press release.

In the randomized, double-blind, clinical study (NCT02175472), PhotoPharmics evaluated the safety and effectiveness of Spectramax light therapy in Parkinson’s patients on stable dopaminergic therapy.

The trial enrolled 92 Parkinson’s patients 45 years or older at three centers in the U.S. and Europe. Participants were randomized to receive one hour of either light therapy (45 patients) or a placebo light (47 patients) every evening over six months. The placebo was a light therapy with a bandwidth that was not thought to be biologically active.

Patient’s disease severity (including motor and non-motor symptoms), sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and quality of life were assessed before and after six months of treatment through several validated methods.

According to PhotoPharmics’ website, the company’s Spectramax device, which provides strong but harmless doses of light in specific wavelengths, was mainly set on a table or desk at the participants’ home. This way, patients were able to do several activities — such as read, watch TV, and eat a meal — while receiving the light therapy.

After six months of light therapy, patients showed a clinically meaningful improvement on disease severity — assessed through the Movement Disorders Society-Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS) — compared with patients in the placebo group.

Treated patients also showed a significant reduction in non-motor symptoms (measured through Part 1 of the MDS-UPDRS), a significant improvement in their quality of life (assessed using the Parkinson’s Disease Questionnaire (PDQ-39)), and an almost statistically significant reduction in daytime sleepiness (measured through the Epworth Sleepiness Scale), compared with those receiving only standard dopaminergic treatment.

Spectramax light therapy was well-tolerated, with dry eye, teary eye, and eye strain being the most common side effects.

These results are a “significant milestone for patients with Parkinson’s disease and showcases what may be the only adjunctive therapy to improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms on top of the dopaminergic medications that patients are likely already taking,” said Kent Savage, PhotoPharmics’ CEO.

PhotoPharmics noted that larger double-blind studies are required to confirm these results, and that the company plans to conduct additional clinical trials to further investigate light therapy in neurodegenerative diseases.

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