53 posts tagged “Parkinson’s Disease”

Talking brain donation with Dr. Deborah Mash

Posted September 1st, 2015 by

Dr. Deborah Mash is a professor of neurology and molecular/cellular pharmacology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She’s also the director of the university’s Brain Endowment Bank, and she recently spoke with PatientsLikeMe about her research and exactly what goes into donating your brain to science. As she says, “we still know very little about that which makes us uniquely human” – read her Q&A interview below.

What led you to study diseases of the brain? 

The brain is the next biologic frontier. We have learned more about the human brain in the past twenty years than throughout all of human history. And, we still know very little about that which makes us uniquely human – our brain. I was always very interested in the anatomy and the chemistry of the brain and in disease-related Neuroscience. I consider it a privilege to study the human brain in health and disease.

How would you explain the process of brain donation to PatientsLikeMe members who might be new or uncomfortable with the idea of donating this organ to science?

Brain donation is no different than donating other organs after death. Organ and tissue donations can give life or sight to another person. Transplanted tissues are used in surgeries to repair damaged bones and joints. And these donated tissues are also important for research studies to advance best practices that are used by doctors. The gift of a brain donation supports research studies that will bring about new treatments, better diagnosis and ultimately cures for disorders of the human brain like Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, ALS, schizophrenia and depression, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, and multiple sclerosis to name a few.

A brain donation does not interfere or delay a family’s plans for the funeral, burial or cremation. There is no cost to the family to make this final gift.

What brain bank research would you most like to share with the PatientsLikeMe community? Our ALS, MS, Parkinson’s and mental health members might be interested to hear about brain bank research for their conditions.

Studies of the human brain have led to seminal discoveries including the loss of dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease and the association of beta amyloid with Alzheimer’s disease. Without examining the human brain after death, these discoveries could not have happened. Medications for Parkinson’s disease were advanced because scientists identified the loss of dopamine that causes many of the symptoms.

We have new technology that provides an unprecedented opportunity to rapidly examine large-scale gene expression of human brain for the first time. This powerful approach can facilitate understanding the molecular pathogenesis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that is usually fatal in five years. Motor neurons in ALS undergo degeneration, causing secondary muscle atrophy and weakness. Studies of ALS in human brain are beginning to identify multiple processes involved in the pathogenesis of ALS.

We have yet to fully understand the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).

This disease is different for everyone who has it. The symptoms it causes and when they flare up is different not only between people but also throughout one person’s life. This makes the diagnosis difficult and complicates treatment. The science behind MS is slowed because there are too few brains donated for research. We get many more requests for well-characterized MS cases and too few brain specimens are available to support the research. This lack of donated brains from MS patients is a barrier for MS research.

Examining the brain after death is important to understand how well experimental treatments are working in clinical trials to see if the drug did what it was supposed to do. An autopsy follow-up on 13 patients from a recent Alzheimer’s drug trial showed that although the drug had cleared the beta amyloid protein, it hadn’t changed the course of the disease — an incredibly important observation needed to advance the direction of Alzheimer’s disease research. The same is true for anyone who participates in clinical trials for any brain disorder.

When you ask people (or their family members) to consider donating their brain to UMBEB or another brain bank, what do you want them to know?

A brain donation is a final gift that contributes to the health and well being of the next generation – your children and grandchildren. It is a very special endowment that lives on by advancing research that can lead to the next scientific breakthrough.

People who want to be organ donors typically sign a card letting others know their wishes, but brain donations require an additional pledge card. This is not always well promoted. How can PatientsLikeMe members who are interested in brain donation obtain the special brain donation pledge cards?

It is important to make your wish known by registering in advance. We make it an easy process and provide donor registration cards for your wallet. You can share this information with your family and friends. You can request information or become a registered donor by visiting us online at http://brainbank.med.miami.edu or call 1-800-UM-Brain.

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Food for thought: August (diet) edition

Posted August 12th, 2015 by

Many mothers have told their children “you are what you eat,” but some PatientsLikeMe members have taken that idea one step further and are using their diets to try and manage the symptoms of their conditions. People have been sharing about everything from gluten-free to vegan diets – check out what some people said in the conversations below:

“I truly believe, after 50+ years of fibromyalgia symptoms ranging from pain and depression to migraines, irritable bowel, and low thyroid, that the biggest help of all is to watch my diet, get in lots of fruits and vegetables, and limit sugar and alcohol. I supplement my fruits and veg intake with a whole food based supplement. This has allowed me to reduce medication to thyroid supplementation and a very occasional sumatriptan.”
-Fibromyalgia member on her “detox” diet

“My diet is greens, beans, nuts and seeds. Favorites are kale, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, black, pinto and kidney beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, cashews, almonds, peanuts and pistachios, flax and pumpkin seeds. I also have occasional sweet potatoes, apples, oranges and watermelon. Grains are consumed about once a week and are usually Farro or Quinoa.”
-Diabetes II member on his vegan diet

“With all my meds and other things I take for depression and the DBS, I can’t say that a gluten-free diet has been particularly whiz-bang helpful. However, I think it may have slowed my symptoms or made me feel better than I should.”

“I am also trying to stay as gluten-free and sugar-free as possible. It is a daunting exercise each day, but may be worth it long-term. I believe that diet plays a huge role in all disease states. All we can do each day, realistically, is take one day at a time and note any positive changes in our PD symptoms to gauge how we are benefitting.”
-Parkinson’s members on their gluten-free diets

If you missed our other Food for Thought posts, read the previous editions here.

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You can make a difference in April

Posted April 3rd, 2015 by

Eight years ago this April, the PatientsLikeMe Parkinson’s disease (PD) community launched, and now, more than 12,500 people are sharing about what it’s like to live with PD. What better way to recognize this awesome community than to participate in Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month?

Listen to Leslie Chambers, the president and CEO of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA), explain the facts about PD in the video below:

As she says, 60,000 people worldwide will be diagnosed with PD in 2015 – that averages out to 164 people every day, or one person every nine minutes.

This April, it’s not just about the 12,5,000+ PatientsLikeMe members living with PD, or the 60,000 people who will be diagnosed in 2015 – it’s about everyone who is living and has ever lived with PD, and all their family, friends and colleagues who have been affected.

You can make a difference. The APDA is running a “30 days, 30 ways” campaign all month long, so be sure to check their website daily to learn how to get involved. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation is also participating in raising awareness, and they’ve created a great toolkit to get you started. And don’t forget to share through the #PDawareness or #Parkinsons hashtags.

If you’ve been diagnosed with PD, join 12,500 others in sharing to live better, together.

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Patients as Partners: Hallucinations and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire results

Posted February 26th, 2015 by

It’s time for another Patients as Partners post, and today, we’re happy to share the results of the Hallucinations and Parkinson’s disease questionnaire.

In March 2014, more than 500 PatientsLikeMe members living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) took part in an Open Research Exchange (ORE) questionnaire about their condition. They worked with Dennis Chan and Ruth Wood from the University of Cambridge to understand a symptom called an extracampine hallucination, which is the sense of a presence beside or behind you even when there’s nothing or nobody there. So, unlike visual hallucinations, the presence can only be sensed or felt, not seen.

Everything the community shared will help researchers develop a new tool to better measure this type of hallucination and alert doctors and care teams to ask about this symptom earlier rather than later. Read the results here.

What’s ORE all about again? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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Open funding for open science to accelerate ALS research: An interview with Prize4Life CEO Shay Rishoni

Posted January 6th, 2015 by

Just about a year ago, we teamed up with Sage Bionetworks and TED Fellow Dr. Max Little for an ongoing Parkinson’s disease (PD) project called the Patient Voice Analysis (PVA).

 

The big idea: combine data from two sources – phone-based voice recordings and patient reported data from PatientsLikeMe’s Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (PDRS). Then, make the de-identified data sets available to the broader research community on Sage Bionetworks’ cloud-based computational research platform (http://www.synapse.org) to develop new tools to track PD disease progression.

We were overwhelmed by the response from the PatientsLikeMe PD community. More than 650 members provided 851 voice samples, and 779 of those were matched to the PDRS symptom data entered.

 

What’s next for open science?

Sage Bionetworks is working with the distributed DREAM community and ALS non-profit Prize4Life on another open science challenge alongside called the ALS Stratification DREAM Challenge. How does it all fit together?

The “Fund the Prize” campaign is the first of its kind effort to make the path for accelerating drug development completely open – the patient data is open access, the research is open, global and collaborative, and the funding is crowd-based.

The ALS Stratification Challenge, opening in Spring 2015, will be a worldwide cloud-based competition designed to spur the development of quantitative solutions that can identify which ALS patients’ disease will progress rapidly and which will progress more slowly. Prize4Life provides the largest ALS clinical trials database in the world. Sage Bionetworks and DREAM have created a synergistic competition concept and cloud-based computing platform that includes forums, webinars and a “leaderboard” that shows whose model is working best.

The individual or team with the best solution wins the prize – a $37,000 donation that the Challenge is asking everyone to help raise through the INDIEGOGO “Fund The Prize” campaign. The prize will help incentivize innovators from around the world to take part, and 100% of every donation goes towards the prize.

Helping spread the word

Prize4Life CEO Shay Rishoni is a 48 year-old dad of two boys and was an Ironman triathlete before being diagnosed with ALS in August 2011. Within three months he saw his ability to use his arms weaken considerably while no other body parts were affected. Less than two years later he was completely paralyzed and breathing with a ventilator. We caught up with him to help spread the word and learn more about the Challenge, why he thinks the prize is so important and why he works so hard.

Can you tell us a little about your own journey with ALS?

I was diagnosed with ALS 3.5 years ago, when I was 45 years old, a CEO of a company, an Ironman, a pilot, a military colonel (in res.) and a family man with two young sons. Given all of that, receiving a diagnosis of ALS was of course not what I had planned! But I knew that like everything else in life, I will make sure to stay true to myself and my values nonetheless- to stay positive, active and entrepreneurial. That meant in my public life to fight for the development of treatments- and a cure!- for ALS, for current patients like me, but mostly for future patients. In my private life, as a husband, as a friend and as a father to fight to feel and know that Life is Good, and winning is a way of life. Although by now I am fully paralyzed, I believe that as long as I dream up plans and then work to make them happen, I am invincible.

You can see more of me explaining it in this video of my TED talk.

How did you become involved with Prize4Life and the ALS Stratification Dream Challenge?

I first learned about Prize4Life from its founder, Avi Kremer, who is also an ALS patient. Avi was diagnosed with ALS 10 years ago, as a 29 years old Harvard Business school student striving to make finding a cure for ALS a viable business. He was the recipient of the 2011 Israeli Prime minister award for innovation and entrepreneurship in the non-profit sector. I was inspired by his strength, courage and sophistication, and with Prize4Life model and important work and I knew that this is a framework with which I will do important meaningful things for ALS research, and I become the CEO in 2013.

One such important thing is the ALS Stratification Dream challenge. I think it’s a unique and highly innovative initiative. From a patient perspective it addresses a critical question- How can patients with a rare disease create meaningful solutions for their own illness? And the answer is by engaging as many stakeholders as possible. The “Fund the Prize” campaign is the first of its kind effort to make the path for accelerating drug development completely open- the patient data is open access, the research is open, global and collaborative, and the funding is crowd-based. It builds on Prize4Life’s database of ALS patients- the largest ALS clinical trials database in the world. Sage Bionetworks and DREAM, our collaborators, have created a synergistic competition concept and cloud-based computing platform to allow a planetary republic to use the data. Together we will get computational solutions that will tell us why patients are so diverse- from Lou Gehrig’s succumbing to the disease within two years to Stephen Hawking’s 50 years odyssey with ALS. The Challenge, opening in Spring, 2015, will be a worldwide cloud-based competition designed to spur the development of computer algorithms that effectively predict which ALS patients will experience rapid disease progression and which patients will live longer.

Why do you think the prize model is so important?

Prize4Life’s prize model is inspired by similar programs such as X-prize for space travel, demonstrated to foster meaningful research. These programs allow bringing awareness and new minds into a field and generate measurable results for well-defined goals. Prize4Life wants to bring all these benefits to ALS- awareness, new minds and measurable, highly needed, results.

Prize4Life aspires to span broad fields of innovation for their importance for ALS: we gave a $1M prize for a medical device that serves as a biomarker for ALS, another prize for developing algorithms that can predict disease progression and we are running a prize for a druggable cure. We believe that biologists, chemists, engineers, clinicians, software developers and all citizen scientists can bring a meaningful change in ALS.

Prize4Life and DREAM have already demonstrated the power of open Challenges to advance ALS disease research. The first ALS Challenge, conducted in 2012 when Prize4Life’s open ALS patient database contained data from about 1,000 patients, leveraged insights from over 1,000 solvers from 63 countries to identify novel methods that have the potential to reduce the costs of ALS drug development by millions of dollars. The winning approaches are now being used in the development of several ALS treatments, and are described in a recent article in Nature Biotechnology (here is coverage by Science news).

Why do you work so hard?

Because I have a lot to accomplish. (“If not me than who? If not now than when?”) ALS is still an orphan disease, still is relatively unknown, and we still see tremendous potential to realize- computer scientists can create solutions for better treatments and care, engineers can create better assistive technology, biologists can create better drugs… I believe everyone can be part of the victory over ALS.

What’s one thing about ALS that you think everyone should know?

That we, the ALS patients, even when we can no longer speak, still have a voice. That we still have big dreams and still work to make them happen, and if enough people will work together, we will win the fight over ALS.

…and that ALS patients can love and be loved.

How do you see open science evolving in the future?

I think open science will only become more important in fostering innovative research ideas from diverse communities. It will allow everyone to be part of the solutions, and that means many more solutions!

Where can someone make a donation to help fund the prize?

“Fund the Prize- Solving ALS Together” is a crowdfunding campaign (running now on Indiegogo.com) and intended to provide the prize money for the Challenge and thereby to bring together renowned scientists worldwide and drive innovation. The crowdfunding will run until January 22, 2015.

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2014 recap – a year of sharing in the PatientsLikeMe community

Posted December 23rd, 2014 by

Another year has come and gone here at PatientsLikeMe, and as we started to look back at who’s shared their experiences, we were quite simply amazed. More than 30 members living with 9 different conditions opened up for a blog interview in 2014. But that’s just the start. Others have shared about their health journeys in short videos and even posted about their favorite food recipes.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who shared their experiences this year – the PatientsLikeMe community is continuing to change healthcare for good, and together, we can help each other live better as we move into 2015.

Team of Advisors
In September, we announced the first-ever PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, a group of 14 members that will work with us this year on research-related initiatives. They’ve been giving regular feedback about how PatientsLikeMe research can be even more helpful, including creating a “guide” that highlights new standards for researchers to better engage with patients. We introduced everyone to three so far, and look forward to highlighting the rest of team in 2015.

  • Meet Becky – Becky is a former family nurse practitioner, and she’s a medically retired flight nurse who is living with epilepsy and three years out of treatment for breast cancer.
  • Meet Lisa – Lisa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2008, and just recently stopped working as a full-time executive due to non-motor PD symptoms like loss of function, mental fatigue and daytime insomnolence. Her daughter was just married in June.
  • Meet Dana – Dana is a poet and screenplay writer living in New Jersey and a very active member of the mental health and behavior forum. She’s living with bipolar II, and she’s very passionate about fighting the stigma of mental illness.

The Patient Voice
Five members shared about their health journeys in short video vignettes.

  • Garth – After Garth was diagnosed with cancer, he made a promise to his daughter Emma: he would write 826 napkin notes so she had one each day in her lunch until she graduated high school.
  • Letitia – has been experiencing seizures since she was ten years old, and she turned to others living with epilepsy on PatientsLikeMe.
  • Bryan – Bryan passed away earlier in 2014, but his memory lives on through the data he shared about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was also an inaugural member of the Team of Advisors.
  • Becca – Becca shared her experiences with fibromyalgia and how she appreciates her support on PatientsLikeMe.
  • Ed – Ed spoke about his experiences with Parkinson’s disease and why he thinks it’s all a group effort.

Patient interviews
More than 30 members living with 9 different conditions shared their stories in blog interviews.

Members living with PTSD:

  • David Jurado spoke in a Veteran’s podcast about returning home and life after serving
  • Lucas shared about recurring nightmares, insomnia and quitting alcohol
  • Jess talked about living with TBI and her invisible symptoms
  • Jennifer shared about coping with triggers and leaning on her PatientsLikeMe community

Member living with Bipolar:

  • Eleanor wrote a three-part series about her life with Bipolar II – part 1, part 2, part 3

Members living with MS:

  • Fred takes you on a visual journey through his daily life with MS
  • Anna shared about the benefits of a motorized scooter, and a personal poem
  • Ajcoia, Special1, and CKBeagle shared how they raise awareness through PatientsLikeMeInMotion™
  • Nola and Gary spoke in a Podcast on how a PatientsLikeMe connection led to a new bathroom
  • Tam takes you into a day with the private, invisible pain of MS
  • Debbie shared what it’s like to be a mom and blogger living with MS
  • Shep spoke about keeping his sense of humor through his journey with MS
  • Kim shared about her fundraising efforts through PatientsLikeMeInMotion™
  • Jazz1982 shared how she eliminates the stigma surrounding MS
  • Starla talked about MS awareness and the simple pleasure of riding a motorcycle

Members living with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis:

Members living with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Dropsies shared about her frustrating Parkinson’s diagnosis experience and how diabetes might impact her future eating habits

Members living with ALS:

  • Steve shared the story behind his film, “My Motor Neuron Disease Made Easier”
  • Steven shared how technology allows him to participate in many events
  • Steve shared about creating the Steve Saling ALS residence and dealing with paramedics
  • Steve told why he participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Dee revealed her tough decision to insert a feeding tube
  • John shared about his cross-country road trip with his dog, Molly

Members living with lung cancer:

  • Vickie shared about her reaction to getting diagnosed, the anxiety-filled months leading up to surgery and what recovery was like post-operation
  • Phil shared the reaction she had after her blunt diagnosis, her treatment options and her son’s new tattoo

Members living with multiple myeloma:

  • AbeSapien shared about his diagnosis experience with myeloma, the economic effects of his condition and his passion for horseback riding

Caregiver for a son living with AKU:

  • Alycia and Nate shared Alycia’s role and philosophy as caregiver to young Nate, who is living with AKU

Food for Thought
Many members shared their recipes and diet-related advice on the forums in 2014.

  • April – first edition, and what you’re making for dinner
  • May – nutrition questions and the primal blueprint
  • June – getting sleepy after steak and managing diet
  • July – chocolate edition
  • August – losing weight and subbing carbs
  • September – fall weather and autumn recipes
  • Dropsies – shared her special diabetes recipes for Diabetes Awareness Month

Patients as Partners
More than 6,000 members answered questions about their health and gave feedback on the PatientsLikeMe Open Research Exchange (ORE) platform. ORE gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their opinion about each question in a researcher’s health measure. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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Getting to know our 2014 Team of Advisors – Lisa

Posted October 27th, 2014 by

A few weeks ago, we kicked off the “Getting to know our 2014 Team of Advisors” blog series with Dana, a PatientsLikeMe member from New Jersey that is living with bipolar II. And now, we’d like to introduce you to another member of the team – Lisa. 

About Lisa (aka lcs)

Lisa’s recent work experience was to help healthcare providers improve care delivery working for Cerner Homecare, a home health/hospice software solution, and Press Ganey, a patient satisfaction measurement/improvement organization. She is very knowledgeable about providers/systems and the flaws in the system. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2008, and just recently stopped working as a full time executive due to non-motor PD symptoms like loss of function, mental fatigue and daytime somnolence, and she is now a volunteer at National Patient Advocate Foundation, and a Mom whose daughter just got married in June.

 

Lisa on being part of the Team of Advisors

“When we had our first in-person meeting in Cambridge, we were a group of strangers who had no idea what to expect. We quickly learned we were connected by our common experiences and our passion to improve the patient’s experience. I think we were all surprised that our variety of health conditions gave us much more in common than we anticipated. Our passion and respective experiences made the discussion rich. And the PatientsLikeMe Team made us feel special and like we were part of the team. I think dinner the night of our arrival, before we’d had any formal introductions to each other, lasted over 3 hours and ended only because of fatigue!

Before I was introduced to the history and mission of PatientsLikeMe at a deeper level, I was an advocate and I knew I was benefitting from the community and tools. Learning more about the history of the brothers, the openness of the culture and the passion shared by the formal team has made me an evangelist.”

Lisa’s view on patient centeredness

“Patient centeredness is a new buzz-word in healthcare today. It’s somewhat oversimplified, but at its most basic it is putting the patient at the center of care. This means many things in healthcare: ensuring access to care, engagement of the patient at and between visits in their own care, integrated care across specialties. In research: collaboration among researchers to advance discoveries as the priority, with financial return secondary; finding a better balance between patient safety and speed to market of new discoveries, improving patient participation in clinical trials.”

Lisa’s contribution to researchers at the University of Maryland 

PatientsLikeMe recently invited the University of Maryland (UMD) to our Cambridge office for a three day consortium that kicked off a partnership funded by their PATIENTS program, which aims to collect patient input and feedback on all phases of research, from ideas to published results. For one of the working sessions we invited Lisa to join us remotely, to discuss her journey with Parkinson’s disease (PD), and share her perspective and expertise as a patient. Here’s what she experienced:

“When I was still working, I learned that Parkinson’s affected my ‘public speaking’ ability. So, starting our discussion with a Q&A format helped me feel that it wasn’t presenting but rather just talking with colleagues. Also, speaking ‘as a patient’ meant I didn’t have to pretend…like if the right word didn’t come to me quickly, it was okay. The PatientsLikeMe team made it easy.

I had to work out my thoughts in advance and at first had considered sharing ‘data’ about PD. As I thought further though I realized that they live with data, they don’t live with PD. Instead I tried to share my experience through storytelling, hoping I could bring them into the life of a PWP on a daily basis.

Two things came as a surprise, both out of the questions I was asked by the UMD team. When we opened up the discussion to questions, there was some good discussion about the hurdles of participating in a clinical trial from the patient’s perspective. But then the researchers asked me questions I didn’t expect – not inappropriate, just surprising to me. One [of] the researchers wanted to know how my condition affected my family.

Another asked me, “what would my experience be like if I didn’t have PatientsLikeMe as a resource?” That one made me think. I hadn’t realized that I’d probably have no idea what I didn’t have. I would not know that other patients often have this onset of anxiety in public that they’d never had before. I would not know that there is a skin condition associated with PD. I would have a list of meds I kept and probably wouldn’t be able to go back and see start and stop dates because I wouldn’t have bothered saving that data…..

Patient participation in research is more than recruitment and trial results. I think a patient should participate in the study design process – before the Institutional Review Board approves. Be more creative in the design:

  • Ensure patients who meet the study criteria KNOW about the study – extend your reach to leverage support groups, forums and patients.
  • Ensure patients have ACCESS to the study – if your study requires multiple visits and has a handful of study sites, you’re limiting yourself to a finite number of potential participants.
  • Ensure patients learn about the study RESULTS – we need to know what we did mattered so we’re inspired to do it again, so we’re inspired to tell others.

For the PD community, a recent study found that only 1 in 10 patients with Parkinson’s disease have participated in a trial. PARTICIPATE! My experience is that YOU have to go find them. Sure, if you see a doctor in an academic setting, you’ll see flyers posted on the bulletin boards about trials (your provider may or may not mention to you). PatientsLikeMe has a clinical trials tab (did you know that?). PD has Fox Trial Finders and I suspect there are other condition specific registries. Or go to http://clinicaltrials.gov/ and search a database of private and public clinical trials. Together we can all help each other and ourselves!”

More about the 2014 Team of Advisors

They’re a group of 14 PatientsLikeMe members who will give feedback on research initiatives and create new standards that will help all researchers understand how to better engage with patients like them. They’ve already met one another in person, and over the next 12 months, will give feedback to our own PatientsLikeMe Research Team. They’ll also be working together to develop and publish a guide that outlines standards for how researchers can meaningfully engage with patients throughout the entire research process.

So where did we find our 2014 Team? We posted an open call for applications in the forums, and were blown away by the response! The Team includes veterans, nurses, social workers, academics and advocates; all living with different conditions.

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The Patient Voice- Parkinson’s member Ed shares his story

Posted April 21st, 2014 by

 

Back in March, we shared some of our infographics and videos on the blog, and as part of our #dataforgood initiative, PatientsLikeMe member Ed spoke about his experiences with Parkinson’s disease and why he thinks it’s all a group effort. Click above to watch his video, and keep an eye out for more interviews with PatientsLikeMe members talking about what #dataforgood means to them.


“I would just like to understand the ‘why’” – a conversation with PD community member dropsies

Posted April 14th, 2014 by

Right at the start of April, you might have seen us post on the blog that it’s Parkinson’s (PD) Awareness Month. And to keep Parkinson’s awareness going strong all month long, we’re sharing a recent interview with PatientsLikeMe member Betty – aka dropsies to those in the community. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s back in 2009, but was experiencing symptoms since way back in 2005. And just at the start of 2014, she was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Check out her interview below where she shares about her frustrating Parkinson’s diagnosis experience, how diabetes might impact her future eating habits and what she means by a family of ‘co-takers.’

Tell us about your initial diagnosis experience with Parkinson’s – on your PatientsLikeMe profile, you mention your symptoms aren’t “textbook” – what are they like?

My diagnostic tale has been long, complicated, and oftentimes frustrating, like many PWP experiences, and has yet to come to a medically-agreed upon final conclusion. I don’t care what it’s called. I would just like to understand “why” before I’m actually confined to life in a wheelchair.

After two years of thorough investigation, working with my PCP and including cardiac and rheumatology examinations, my neurologist eliminated many possibilities, with testing for lyme disease and lupus being repeated. The only confirmed diagnoses to be made were narcolepsy without cataplexy, a condition my history showed I’d had since childhood, but  escalated with menopause and restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Three years later, after aggressive treatment to control the narcolepsy and RLS, the unexplained issues continued to worsen. The increasing difficulties were with balance, loss of dexterity, freezing at step-ups, dystonia, shuffling gait, physical restlessness, exertion tremors with pronounced shortness of breath, full body muscle pain and stiffness, arms clinging to the body, and index or middle finger fidgeting the thumb, most presenting intermittently with no definitive pattern. I was referred to an MDS in May of 2009 who reviewed the battery of tests, labs, and imagery from the previous 5 years, conducted a clinical examination, waited 4 months and repeated the examination to conclude “an undefined movement disorder, prominent on the left, not rapidly progressing (therefore not of immediate concern) but probably early Parkinson’s Disease”. I was put back under the care of my primary neurologist with additional dosages of Mirapex, already being taken for RLS, and life continued on.

Within the year occasional episodes of Choreoathetosis greatly disturbed co-workers and friends, and as my lack of alertness became alarmingly severe despite an increase in Provigil, the Mirapex was reduced back to bedtime only. It was clear that treating my Parkinson’s symptoms was not going to be easy with narcolepsy. Under a new supervisor, my job duties were reviewed and adjustments made, but it was still a position that required a great deal of personal interaction, and eventually it was determined that I could no longer meet expectations. I was losing the ability to comprehend, think, and speak “in real time.” I moved back “home” and began the task of making a new and very different life.

My current PCP, who cautiously agrees it’s Parkinson’s, is very supportive and wants very much to improve my quality of life. I have been referred to two neurologists within the last 5 months, neither an MDS, but both, within the first 5 minutes of a single office visit and without my medical records, have dismissed the 2009 diagnosis with no further investigation planned, or even offered. One, who felt cog-wheel rigidity in my left wrist, said “it’s complicated,” but why no genetic testing, no PET or SPECT, and why wasn’t a trial of Sinemet given? The other said I don’t have resting tremor, he found no cog-wheel rigidity, and I show facial expression, so it can’t be Parkinson’s, so there’s no reason to try Sinemet.

It takes approximately 18 hours of continuous observation in a simulated home environment using standardized methodology to gather the data necessary to diagnose narcolepsy, so how can movement disorders, with such a wide array of possibilities and variations, be properly diagnosed in randomly performed clinical examinations generally lasting less than 45 minutes in total?

Your oldest son is now your caretaker, and you mentioned the difficulty of the role reversal, can you tell us about that?

It’s become more of a shared role between both my sons, although the youngest doesn’t live nearby.

It has taken time for all of us to adjust to the changes, and although it will be a continuing adjustment, what I thought I had lost as a mother is not lost after all. I came to realize that I still needed to hold on to being Momma. I had to see that I still have the opportunity to teach my children by example. And they had to realize they still needed me to lean on from time to time and to offer thoughts for their consideration when making decisions. Sure, some things have changed a little, but then the small stuff has always been a moving target.

Twenty-five years ago I’d stay in the car while my oldest went into the neighborhood store alone to make a purchase. Now I sit in the car while he goes into a store to make a purchase for me. So I sit in the car . . . nothing new, just different reasons. Fifteen years ago I’d tell my youngest it was a FYOS night because I had too much work to finish. Now I may tell him to help himself with whatever he can find, but I’m not feeling up to eating anything for a while. So he fixes his own supper . . . nothing new, just different reasons.

What I had to realize is that we are still what we’ve always been. We are family, co-caretakers of each other. We are learning to work together again, just as we did when they were still living at home. Only the reasons have changed.

You’re super active when it comes to filling out your health profile on PatientsLikeMe — how do the tools help you track your health, and what have you learned?

One thing that I have definitely learned is that once a symptom becomes a daily standard, I don’t necessarily notice or remember it unless it was severe or continuous that day. I may have a single incidence of freezing early in the day and if I don’t fall from it, or have a great deal of difficulty breaking loose from it, I completely forget about it by the time I do my symptom update.

I’m certainly learning there’s no predictability! I keep thinking that I’ll see some kind of pattern, but nothing has appeared as yet. I can have symptoms causing me great difficulty for weeks at a time and suddenly disappear for months before being noticed in the slightest again. And others are always with me, but other than the obvious, such as loss of coordination and falls, and stress effects, there’s no pattern or connection, even in the level of severity.

You’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. How has another diagnosis impacted your Parkinson’s and day-to-day life? 

So far it’s been a blessing. I put on a great deal of weight since I began this journey, and with little pleasures left to be enjoyed and apathy holding my focus to the simple pleasure of food, I needed a wake-up call! If I’m ever prescribed Sinemet or any Levodopa, I know I’ll have to reevaluate my eating plan to compensate for the protein conflict, but for now I’m trying to stay focused on controlling my diabetes and losing as much weight as I safely can.

It’s probably a first, but I was disappointed that I did not experience the most common side effect of my diabetic medication, Metformin. Both the doctor and the pharmacist gave stern warning that it causes severe diarrhea in the first few weeks. With the constant battle of constipation PWP endure, I was looking forward to it, but it never happened! No change in that situation at all.

Finally, April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. You mentioned fitting into a world that ‘doesn’t know’ what it’s like. What would you like to teach people about Parkinson’s?

The most important thing from my perspective would be that Parkinson’s is not fully visible! Besides the mental and emotional changes caused by the altered state of brain neurotransmitters, there are other non-motor symptoms caused by Parkinson’s. Even tremors are not always “visible.”

One of my earliest and continuing issues is Akathisia, better known as internal tremor and restlessness. There are times that if what I feel could be seen, it would look as if I was holding a live electrical wire. I’ve day-dreamed of a torture rack and how wonderful it would feel to be stretched until it stopped. Thankfully, this level of severity is rare for me. It’s more subtle most of the time. It’s a feeling that doesn’t allow me to sit or stand still. Regardless of the fatigue and pain that builds, sitting to rest is worse. The only thing that brings any relief is to keep moving. If I stop in one place I rock. If I must sit I fidget until I can’t take it anymore and I get up and start pacing, stretching, moving! If it’s confined to just the arms, wrapping in a massaging chair pad can ease it in time, but usually it’s full body and the only solution is to keep moving until it settles, often taking hours!

Akathisia is a little-studied, sporadic symptom in about 26% of PWP, and is only one symptom of Parkinson’s that is visible, although it leads to very visible attempts to get relief. Some of the other non-motor function symptoms PWP often face are constipation, bladder incontinence, difficulty swallowing, gum and dental deterioration, excessive sweating, intolerance to heat and cold, daytime sleepiness, pain, vision issues, loss of taste and smell, memory loss, difficulty with word recall, and apathy. Parkinson’s Disease does not stop with making slow, stooped, stiff, shaky people…it’s so much more!

Betty Bland

a.k.a. “dropsies”


Making a difference for Parkinson’s disease in April

Posted April 2nd, 2014 by

 

After getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), PatientsLikeMe member Ed recalled “I needed to talk to people who had the disease, because only they knew what it was like…and could help me get through that initial shock… we can do much better fighting the disease as a group than we can as individuals.” And that’s why all throughout April, everyone impacted by PD is coming together to get the word out for Parkinson’s Awareness Month.

PD is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that affects around 1 million people in the United States, and symptoms of the condition include tremors, stiffness and impaired balance. There is no known cure for PD, but medication and surgical options can sometimes relieve a few symptoms.1

To get PD Awareness Month started, check out one of the many events being organized in April by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) and the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF). You can join the NPF’s Team Hope, get involved in the PDF’s Parkinson’s Advocates in Research (PAIR) program and find local Parkinson’s resources and organizations.

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with PD, head over to the PD community at PatientsLikeMe, where over 8,000 members are tracking their symptoms and sharing their experiences.

Spoiler alert! That isn’t all Ed had to say about his own experiences and what sharing on PatientsLikeMe means to him. Keep an eye on the blog later this month; we’ll be posting his recent video interview.


1 http://www.pdf.org/en/about_pd


PatientsLikeMe and Sage Bionetworks launch open science study for people with Parkinson’s Disease

Posted February 5th, 2014 by

Companies Partner With TED Fellow Dr. Max Little to Map the Severity of the Disease

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— February 5, 2014PatientsLikeMe and the nonprofit research organization Sage Bionetworks announced today the launch of a new crowdsourced study to develop voice analysis tools that both researchers and people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can use to track PD disease progression.

In collaboration with TED Fellow Dr. Max Little, the Patient Voice Analysis (PVA) project will for the first time combine­­­ data from two sources: phone-based voice recordings that Dr. Little’s software collects and analyzes to detect markers of PD; and information reported by patients using PatientsLikeMe’s Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (PDRS), a tool that documents patients’ answers to questions that measure treatment effectiveness and disease progression.

Both sets of data will be analyzed by the PVA team composed of Dr. Little and scientists from PatientsLikeMe and Sage Bionetworks. In later phases of the project, the de-identified data sets will be available to the broader research community on Sage Bionetworks’ cloud-based computational research platform (www.synapse.org). By crowdsourcing the analysis, the PVA team hopes to identify relationships between voice markers (like tremors in speech) and clinical signs of Parkinson’s disease (such as tremors in the body) so that it becomes possible to monitor patients’ progression with a short phone call. Current monitoring efforts for PD typically require patients to undergo multiple lab visits that cost both time and money.

“We want to democratize the process of monitoring disease progression and return the results to patients as quickly as possible, so they are empowered to make the best decisions,” said PatientsLikeMe Vice President of Innovation Paul Wicks, Ph.D.. “We invite anyone who has PD to take part and join PatientsLikeMe, so they can stay informed about their condition and generate new insights about this disease,” said Wicks.

Dr. Stephen Friend, President and Founder of Sage Bionetworks, echoed Wicks’s enthusiasm for the collaboration. “We are so excited by this opportunity to work together with Dr. Little and PatientsLikeMe. If successful, I fully expect that Dr. Little’s voice software will be what PD patients and their families the world over use to monitor themselves in real-time, and thereby gain insights on how to better manage their own health.”

For more information on the Patient Voice Analysis Project visit: www.patientslikeme.com/join/pva

About PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 250,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 40 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

About Sage Bionetworks 

Sage Bionetworks (http://sagebase.org/) is a nonprofit biomedical research organization, founded in 2009, with a vision to promote innovations in personalized medicine by enabling a community-based approach to scientific inquiries and discoveries. In pursuit of this Mission, Sage Bionetworks is working with others to assemble an information Commons for biomedicine:

  1. That is supported by an open compute space (Synapse: www.synapse.org)
  2. That supports open research collaborations and innovative DREAM Challenges.
  3. That empowers citizens and patients with the tools they need to partner with researchers and share their data through Sage’s BRIDGE platform (http://sagebase.org/bridge/) to drive the research studies that matter most to them.

Sage Bionetworks is located on the campus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, and is supported through a portfolio of philanthropic donations, competitive research grants, and commercial partnerships.

CONTACTS

Lori Scanlon
PatientsLikeMe
Office: +1 617.229.6643
Mobile: +1 774.217.1330
lscanlon@patientslikeme.com

Thea Norman
Sage Bionetworks
Office: +1 206.667.3092
Mobile:  +1 858.997.8598
thea.norman@sagebase.org


As 2013 winds down… Part I

Posted December 27th, 2013 by

We wanted to take a quick look back and share how the PatientsLikeMe community has continued to change healthcare for good over the last year. Thousands of members added their voices to real-time research, all while providing support to one another and sharing about their personal health experiences. It really is a group effort, so a big shout out and thank you to everyone in the community.

Here are some highlights from 365 days of donating data, sharing experiences and learning more, together…

What were some of the hottest topics in the forums?

Who shared their story on the PatientsLikeMe blog?

More than 8,000 members donated their data to a PatientsLikeMe survey, including…

And close to 5,000 added their voices to our first ever Open Research Exchange questionnaires this year, including…

  • The Treatment Burden Questionnaire
  • The WHY STOP questionnaire on type 2 diabetes
  • A questionnaire on hypertension
  • The Perceived Medical Condition Self-Management Scale

As we move into 2014, we’re more confident than ever that the patient experience – your experience – will not only help everyone learn more about their conditions right now, but continue to change healthcare for good.


The ‘something’ that helps you forget

Posted April 24th, 2013 by

If you’re living with a life changing condition, it’s sometimes hard to take your mind off it. We become consumed by medications, side effects, symptoms and everyday living. But every once in a while, we find something that can take our minds somewhere else. And for a time, no matter how brief, all those worries just drift away. For your fellow PatientsLikeMe community member Parkinson Pete, that ‘something’ is music.

“I have been absorbed in my music project…I realized being that absorbed I really, for the first time in years, forgot that I have PD.” -Parkinson Pete

 

Parkinson Pete was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) back in July of 2008 and he joined PatientsLikeMe shortly after. Just this past February, he started a forum thread (I have found a way to reduce PD- do something else) talking about his new music project and posting some of his great recordings for all to hear.

shawden

What happened next was quite simply…awesome. Parkinson Pete was playing every instrument in his recordings except the drums. So fellow community member Shawden offered up his skills as a drummer. And the duo was formed!

Probably the coolest part of it all is that one lives in Washington, the other in California. Parkinson Pete records the guitar and vocals, and then sends it over to Shawden to add in the drums. Their songs are posted up on YouTube and they share them in the PD Forum. Don’t forget to check out the duo’s latest hits. Two talented people discovered and share their love for music on PatientsLikeMe, and aren’t letting PD get in the way. Can’t wait for their next post.


Young professionals, students and patients gather to collaborate at 5th Parkinson’s Disease Summer School

Posted April 9th, 2013 by

The Parkinson’s Disease Summer School was founded in 2008 by Paul de Roos of the European Medical Students’ Association and Krzysztof Nesterowicz of the European Pharmacy Students’ Association. This year, the school is leaving its European roots and relocating to Montreal, Canada.

Brain Logo HQ - t-shirt

Thirty participants from around the world will work in small teams to develop “relevant and realistic research project proposals.” While the chosen participants come from a variety of professional backgrounds, they all share a common interest in advancing Parkinson’s disease (PD) research. The ultimate goal is to get participants thinking outside the box to create future projects that can “make an impact on the lives of PD patients.”

Just like PatientsLikeMe, the summer school knows that to advance research we have to connect with people who aren’t just studying disease, but living with it. Sara Riggare, a PhD student in Sweden with early onset PD, and Jill Ames-Carson, a physiotherapist from Canada living with PD, will both be at the summer school. Their participation and contribution will help lift patient centered thinking about PD to the next level.

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“This year we celebrate the 5th edition of the summer school. We are pushing the boundaries by intensifying our engagement with Parkinson’s patients in our learning and evaluation process.” –Paul de Roos, MD

Some of the experts that will be guiding the participants through their work were selected by the Movement Disorder Society. The summer school is also teaming up with The World Parkinson’s Congress so that participants can showcase their research ideas directly to Parkinson’s professionals.

If you’re living with Parkinson’s disease, find others just like you in the growing community of almost 7,000 Parkinson’s patients on PatientsLikeMe. Learn what they’re doing to manage their condition with symptom and treatment reports, and share your own experience with a personal health profile or in the Parkinson’s disease forum.