COLUMN: Building awareness for Parkinson's Disease

— The National Institute for Health recently announced that a new initiative, aimed at accelerating the search for biomarkers is underway. Biomarkers are changes in the body that can be used to predict, diagnose or monitor a disease. Improved collaboration among doctors, researchers and patients who get involved in clinical studies will help scientists develop the biomarker sooner so that better treatments can be created. A lack of biomarkers for Parkinson’s has been a major challenge for developing better treatments.

Actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed in 1991 but announced in 1998 that he had young-onset Parkinson's disease. Since then, he has started a foundation at michaeljfox.org. Here people can sign up to be a part of clinical trials and learn about the disease. Those interested in participating in trials can also sign up at the National Institute of Health website at the Parkinson’s Disease Biomarkers Program. The program is being launched by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at ninds.nih.gov.

There are also a number of resources and options people can access through these sites. Many explain in detail about symptoms and treatment options such as what drugs may be helpful to reduce symptoms and a description of "deep brain stimulation," an optional surgery that helps monitor circuits that are not functioning properly. Through the National Institute of Health website, there are also links to specific foundations that focus on Parkinson's Disease, such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the American Parkinson's Disease Association, which helped provide information for this column. You may also contact the Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office, Clinical Center at 800-411-1222 or cc.nih.gov/ccc/prpl to sign up for a trial. Many trials also need participants who do not have the disease to compare data.

Assemblyman Will Barclay represents residents of Assembly District 120, which includes Lysander. He can be reached by mail at 200 North Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by phone (598-5185).

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