Researchers and drug companies have a new tool in the search for better treatments for Parkinson's - a brain scan that can be used to select the right people for clinical trials.
The use of a special type of brain scan to identify people who are most suitable to take part in clinical trials for Parkinson's has been officially endorsed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
This represents the first major success of Critical Path for Parkinson's Consortium - a global consortium to improve clinical trials which is led by The Critical Path Institute in partnership with Parkinson's UK.
How brain scans can make a difference
Because Parkinson's is a progressive condition, caused by the gradual loss of cells in the brain, the best chance to intervene with treatments that can slow, stop or reverse the damage is during the earliest stages of the condition.
However, during these early stages, symptoms tend to be mild which makes selecting the right people to participate in trials very difficult.
Up to 15% of individuals taking part in clinical trials for new Parkinson's treatments may have a benign form of the condition that means their symptoms do not significantly worsen over time.
These individuals are extremely unlikely to benefit from the new therapies being tested, and their inclusion can affect both the trial results and ultimately the future of the potential treatment.
Using a brain scan that is already available to aid diagnosis, can help to identify people with the normal, progressive form of Parkinson's that are the best candidates for clinical trials.
Improving the chances of success for clinical trials
"This endorsement from the European Medicines Agency represents many years of hard work and incredible collaboration among companies, universities, and charities facilitated by the Critical Path Institute," says Dr. Diane Stephenson, Executive Director of CPP, who led the work.
"These brain scans in themselves are not new, but until now there has not been a clear consensus that they can and should be used to select participants for clinical trials.
"This success is just the first in a suite of new tools that we hope to deliver for Parkinson's."
Professor David Dexter, Deputy Research Director of Parkinson's UK, which funds CPP, comments:
"Scientific breakthroughs mean that there is now a new wave of exciting treatments that genuinely could slow, stop, or reverse the condition, but it's crucial that we're able to test them properly in clinical trials.
"Being able to rule out individuals who are unlikely to have Parkinson's could be the difference between a successful trial and failure.
"This is a vital step forward in our mission to deliver, as quickly as possible, better treatments, and one day a cure, to people living with Parkinson's."