biomarkers in parkinson's, parkinson's disease, parkinsons health and beauty tips, research, research in parkinson's disease

DAT Scan: Can it Really Tell Me I have PD? : By Dr. De Leon

Dat Scan (Ioflupane I 23 injection also known as phenyltropane) is a radio pharmaceutical agent injected into the veins of a patient known as SPECT nuclear medicine test. When this test was approved in was under the premise that it will be an added tool in the armamentarium of the neurologists/ movement disorder specialist to help decipher difficult cases.

So, the answer to the question…can it tell you have PD? – NO!

The test can’t confirm you have PD! – it can only tell if there is abnormality in the dopamine system which can include any and all of the Parkinson’s plus syndromes including Parkinson’s disease. If abnormal it means there is a problem in the dopamine system period.

Furthermore, like any test is user dependent. My husband who is a neuroradiologist in a small community who has extensive experience in reading PETs for lots of disease and specializes in the brain would not give an accurate reading of a DATSCAN as his colleagues up the road in Houston at the medical center who do hundreds of them.  Since the only PET scans of the brain that have been FDA approved are for diagnosis of dementia- there are standard things that the radiologists look for by guidelines set by the Academy of Radiology who also mandate general training in reading of these tests across the border to all practicing radiologist to maintain their credentials. However, no such mandate has been given in the reading in SPECT or DAT scans  for diagnosis of PD and only those that are in academic centers who have seen hundreds of these studies are actually the only ones qualified to give an expert opinion as to the “quantitative” measure of the uptake in the brain.

If you have received a diagnosis of PD from an expert specialists in movement disorders and are improving or responding to dopamine therapy there is no reason or gain by getting a Dat scan. Likewise, if someone suspects of Parkinsonism due to PSP, MSA etc. no added benefit will be obtained by getting this scan, you might in fact be wasting your money ($2500 to $5000) and time.

This test was only intended to be used as another diagnostic tool to help decipher between dopamine and non dopamine diseases which can mimic PD. Now it is over used unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The FDA only intended to be used to differentiate between essential tremors and PD. In my humble professional opinion, Dat scans are not required for treatment or diagnosis and only place for a Dat scan is in academics for studies or in rare cases where a procedure like DBS or Pallidotomy is being considered and physician is not sure if treating essential tremors vs. PD; which if this is the case, I would be reluctant to have a brain surgical procedure when clinical diagnosis is in question! This invariable will lead to poor outcome… many other treatments can be employed until diagnosis is certain.

Another thing because the trace used to measure dopamine activity is radioactive and expensive is not ordered till the day or night before the test. Thus, if you decide to cancel at the last minute because not feeling well you are causing the facility to lose a lot of money and some facilities may even charge you for it. If you have history of thyroid disease or take thyroid replacement you may not be able to do the test.

So short and long …Doing a DAT SCAN CAN NOT TELL ANYONE THEY HAVE PD – do not be fooled by those that claim otherwise!!! Parkinson’s unfortunately still remains primarily a clinical diagnosis and ONLY way to diagnosed with 100% certainty is brain biopsy or at autopsy. However, there is a caveat, with more studies being done in academic centers understanding and standardization of DAT scan reading is increasing slowly among those involved in the field. at the same time we are slowly gaining knowledge of PD and its varying presentations. Therefore, it is conceivable that in the near future, we might be able to combine the knowledge of two to predict and detect patients who will develop PD.

According to a new study, Danna Jennings, MD, Clinical Research Director at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders in New Haven, and colleagues have attempted to do just this via the Parkinson Associated Risk Syndrome (PARS) study to identify a large-scale cohort of individuals at risk for Parkinson’s disease using olfactory testing and DAT imaging. What they have found is that although no one had PD symptoms at baseline despite abnormal DAT scans or reduced ability to smell ; 46% of individuals with loss of sense of smell combined with a deficit on the DAT scan have shown to develop clinical features of Parkinson’s disease within four years.

“The knowledge that comes from this study will have important implications for the recruitment of individuals for future neuroprotective trials,” stated Dr. Anthony Lang, Director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. Remember, in a previous blog “Thinking Outside the Brain for a Parkinson’s Cure,” I commented that often trials fail or are doomed to fail from the start when it comes to finding neuroprotective agents because we often don’t even have the right diagnosis. If we are able to successfully predict who will develop PD from these early markers: 1) we can institute treatment a lot earlier in hopes of retarding or slowing progression and 2) trials may have a greater chance of success than previously; because we may no longer have to wait until a patient’s disease evolves to the motor stage causing obvious manifestations of Parkinson’s disease in order to include in “early –stage” trials which by definition is no longer early since by then these patients have lost at least 50% of their dopamine producing neurons.

Source: Olfactory Testing and DAT Imaging May Lead to Early Detection of Parkinson’s disease. Neurology Reviews. 2014 22(8):18-21.

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Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org; http://www.aan.org, http://www.defeatparkinsons.blogspot.com All materials here forth are property of Defeatparkinsons. without express written consent, these materials only may be used for viewers personal & non-commercial uses which do not harm the reputation of Defeatparkinsons organization or Dr. M. De Leon provided you do not remove any copyrights. To request permission to reproduce release of any part or whole of content, please contact me at deleonenterprises3@@yahoo.com contributor http://www.assisted-living-directory.com Contributor http://www.lavozbrazoriacounty.com

 

biomarkers in parkinson's, chronic illness, parkinson's disease, parkinsons dementia, parkinsons health and beauty tips, research, research in parkinson's disease

Thinking Outside the Brain for a Parkinson’s Cure : By Dr. De Leon

Thinking Outside the Brain for a Parkinson's Cure : By Dr. De Leon

I don’t think inside the box, I don’t think OUTSIDE the box, I don’t EVEN KNOW where the box is!”- unknown

The other day while I was giving a talk about how to diagnose PD, I was giving my usual spill about ” in the hands of a specialist like myself- accuracy is 95%,” when someone in the audience asked me a very thought provoking question. So, how early can you diagnose with such certainty? Therein lies the BIG Problem in why we need biomarkers and be able to think outside of our current diagnostic criteria!

In reality, I told her it is still very accurate above 90% for someone that has a lot of experience -that’s where art meets medicine …you get your “intuition” about things based on past knowledge and experience and are able to predict with fair accuracy and since at this point there is NO difference in treatment really between one type of Parkinson syndrome or another it does not much matter at the beginning…However, where it becomes a problem is being able to predict outcome and assign patients to studies because you have to follow strict criteria and even if you just KNOW that someone has Parkinson’s or an atypical variant you have to back it up…and as you all know EVERYONE is different so it may take some one ten years to develop all 4 cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s while someone else only 2. So, it is hard to at present time to make a lot of head way in the discovery of new medications that might be beneficial to slow or stop the progression of early stage of Parkinson’s because unfortunately there is still a lot of variability in early diagnostic accuracy depending on the field. Even among neurologist not Parkinson’s specialist, a published study indicated that for PD patients who had symptoms less than 5 years, they were wrong 50% of the time. These patients turned up to have another reason for their Parkinsonism which translates to automatic failure of any drug being studied since 50% of the patients in any given trial of early PD may not even respond because they don’t have the right diagnosis!

So, I realized that in order for us to start thinking OUTSIDE the BOX we need to FIRST get a CLUE of where the BOX is – what Parkinson’s looks like- acts like, presents like so THAT EVERYONE IS on the same page and able to diagnose with same degree of accuracy!!! This needs of course to go back to medical school, residency and communities and we all as PD advocates can play a role in educating health staff and other health professionals about Parkinson’s. The better we are at recognizing early symptoms the better chance we have for participating in neuro-protective trials as well as be able to determine biomarkers early on.

A lot of money and research is being channeled to the finding of these biomarkers in the recent years. According to research initiated by the MJFOX foundation, we may have insight into possible new biomarkers coming from the retina, colon, or skin which could lead to not early detection but a cure for PD.

For a number of years, neuroscientist have known that alpha-synuclein the abnormal protein seen in Parkinson’s is also found outside of the central nervous system. This protein is a major constituent of Lewy body disease another Parkinson’s like disease. However, alpha-synuclein which is located largely at the ends of neurons plays a part in both familial and sporadic Parkinson’s disease as well.

Through the usage of very powerful machines and equipment known as optical coherence tomography (OCT) which takes high resolution pictures of the retina, scientists and doctors have found that PD patients have thinner retinas compared to healthy individuals.
At this point, they are not sure if there is enough evidence to use as a biomarker because they are not certain how specific it is to Parkinson’s since it also has been seen in Alzheimer’s patients who had Parkinson’s as a co-morbidity.
Alpha-synuclein is normally present in several types of retinal cells…so the possibility of serving as a biomarker exists either by accumulation or (absence) at this time no cells have been found in PD patients.

Another place that accumulates alpha-synuclein outside the brain is the colon. Published studies have revealed that immunostaining for Alpha-synuclein in living Parkinson’s individuals results in a positive outcome in 69-100% of the time but not seen in MSA ( multi -system atrophy) patients. Another study showed that these findings preceded the clinical motor symptoms. So far, results which are small have been mixed. They are easy to attain because of flexible sigmoidoscopy can access distal colon easily plus screening is required of all over 50 years of age. However, not all pd people showed pathology. Some explanations have been given which include variation of tissue involvement, change in pathology over time and perhaps unsuitability of this being used as a biomarker.

The third place where scientists are looking for a possible biomarker outside the central nervous system which is also full of alpha -synuclein is the skin. One reason, people are interested in this area is because of the new wave of knowledge and thinking about the etiology of Parkinson’s. Since, we now know that there is a prodrome period of non- motor & autonomic symptoms that precede the development of the motor symptoms, researchers believe that perhaps alpha-synuclein pathology starts outside the brain and migraines to the brainstem.
Also, studies have suggested that peripheral nervous system is equally involved in Parkinson’s. Evidence of this was suggested in an issue of Brain in 2008 where Parkinson’s patients were found to have cutaneous denervation resulting in higher threshold for heat and touch but decrease for pain.

Because the skin is not only easily accessible but also has a plethora of autonomic involvement, and many autonomic nerves making it a great candidate for study.
A study in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology proposed that the skin may be a beneficial site for diagnostic predictability since 70% of PD cases and 40% of PD with dementia revealed positive alpha-synuclein immunoreactivity while absent in other Parkinson plus syndromes like MSA ( multisystem atrophy) , PSP( Progressive supranuclear palsy), & CBGD (Cortico-basal-ganglia-degeneration). The results are very promising but still need to be validated and compared longitudinally and with autopsy confirmed cases of PD.

Out of all these the most promising is the skin biopsies as a possible biomarker..easy and readily accessible and this far able to differentiate between Parkinson’s and other Parkinson’s plus syndromes.
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For more information on the topic: MJFOX research on biomarkers
Haugh, Zac., Movement Disorder Focus: Alpha-synuclein :Thinking Outside the Brain. Practical Neurology. Vol. 13, No.2, March 2014

Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org; http://www.aan.org, http://www.defeatparkinsons.blogspot.com

All materials here forth are property of Defeatparkinsons. without express written consent, these materials only may be used for viewers personal & non-commercial uses which do not harm the reputation of Defeatparkinsons organization or Dr. M. De Leon provided you do not remove any copyrights. To request permission to reproduce release of any part or whole of content, please contact me at defeatparkinsons101@yahoo.com