French study discovers promising new treatment for Parkinson’s

French study discovers promising new treatment for Parkinson's

The results of a new study published yesterday, April 3, show that a drug already used against type 2 diabetes could slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. These conclusions must still be confirmed but this work has already been praised by Marie Fuzzati, scientific director of Europe Parkinson.

Are we on the verge of discovering a new treatment capable of slowing Parkinson’s disease? The question arises following the scientific publication of a team of French researchers, co-directed by Professor Olivier Rascol, neuropharmacologist at Toulouse University Hospital, and Professor Wassilios Meissner, neurologist at Bordeaux University Hospital.

Lixisenatide, a type 2 antidiabetic drug developed by Sanofi laboratories and belonging to the class of GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic (semaglutide), would be capable of slowing the progression of the disease. Conclusions presented as a world first.

Parkinson’s disease affects 165,000 people in Europe

This new medicinal option therefore represents real hope for the 165,000 people affected by the disease in Europe. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease leading to progressive degeneration of the neurons that produce dopamine, within a deep structure of the brain, the substantia nigra. The latter is involved in the coordination of voluntary movements. It is this deficiency which creates the appearance of tremors in patients, but also the rigidity and slowness of their movements.

A clinical trial carried out on 156 patients

The study was carried out on 156 patients from the NS-Park network of French Parkinson expert centers. All aged between 40 and 76 and in the early stages of the disease, they were diagnosed three years ago or less and are treated with L-Dopa, a drug which aims to compensate for the lack of dopamine in the brain.

As part of this work, patients received subcutaneous injections of lixisenatide or placebo. They were subsequently followed for regular assessments of their state of health and their ability to move, when walking, for example, or in other situations. A score ranging from 0 (no handicap) to 132 (total handicap) was assigned to them each time.

Stabilization of scores for patients on lixisenatide

Observing these results, the researchers noticed that patients on placebo showed a worsening of their scores evaluating their motor symptoms by three points, while patients on lixisenatide showed stable results. A result described as “modest” by Professor Olivier Rascol, who nevertheless recalls that these three points of difference were “extremely close” to the moment when patients generally begin to feel a difference.

Concretely, patients in this group had more difficulty walking or getting up from a chair or more tremors, for example. explains Wassilios Meissner to our colleagues in Le Monde. Encouraging point: two months after stopping treatment with the antidiabetic, the difference in its favor persisted. The question now is whether these effects can last over time.

Side effects to watch out for

Furthermore, throughout the duration of this therapeutic trial, few patients chose to drop out. “This is an encouraging signal” estimates Marie Fuzzati, scientific director of Europe Parkinson. “Usually, it is estimated that 10 to 15% of patients drop out during therapeutic trials.“.

However, some volunteers were affected by gastrointestinal disorders, such as nausea for 46% of participants or vomiting in 13% of them. A risk of acute pancreatitis, which is rarer, is also to be reported, as is possible weight loss. “The fact that the molecule is known is a good thing, but we still need to evaluate all these undesirable effects, in particular weight loss, which is really not recommended for patients affected by Parkinson’s.” recalls Marie Fuzzati.

However, she welcomes the research which “goes in the right direction” and wishes to emphasize that “further work will be necessary” to perhaps one day see a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease available in pharmacies.