Despite all recent advances in symptomatic therapy Parkinson's disease (PD) continues to be a relentlessly progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Therefore therapies that will slow or hold disease progression are a major medical unmet need in PD. Clinical measures of disease progression that have been used in disease modification trials so far have focused on indices of progression of cardinal motor features like bradykinesia, rigidity, and tremor as captured by the UPDRS and the emerging need for effective dopaminergic symptomatic therapy. Progression of global disability in PD, however, is driven by additional factors beyond progressive nigrostriatal denervation leading to increasing severity of cardinal motor features. Progressive pathology in extranigral sites in the brain or peripheral autonomic nervous system contribute to poorly levodopa responsive motor symptoms like postural instability, freezing and falls or nonmotor symptoms. In addition treatment-induced motor complications also impact on PD disability. Although it is widely accepted that clinical progression of PD is multidimensional and in addition includes effects of aging, there is no consensus how to best implement more clinically meaningful endpoints for disease progression trials that would reflect these complex interactions impacting on the evolution of global disability in PD. There is an urgent need for biomarkers for disease progression that would faithfully reflect advancing neurodegeneration and resulted clinical disability in PD and that could be used in shorter term clinical trials testing putative disease modifying agents.
Copyright 2009 Movement Disorder Society