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Poughkeepsie Couple Leads Charge to Find Cure for Parkinsonís Disease

By Greg Maker

When town of Poughkeepsie resident Marilyn Hankin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she and her husband Bob knew they had to do everything in their power to find a cure.

Now, 20 years later, the couple is still at it as advocates for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, traveling to various community organizations to encourage people to take part in clinical trials to find a cure.

“It progressively has gotten worse and there is no cure for it,” Bob Hankin said. “You can’t test somebody for Parkinson’s to say whether they have it or not. You can’t see a tumor like you can with cancer. The only thing you can do is research, which requires volunteers in clinical trials.”

Unfortunately for the Hankins, there are no sites in Dutchess County that perform clinical trials for Parkinson’s disease. Hankin said that he and his wife have been traveling to New York City where they have participated in trials at medical centers at Columbia and New York universities as well as Cornell Medical College. They have also gone to Albany for trials as well as the National Health Institute in Bethesda, MD, but will return to Manhattan next week for further tests at Beth Israel Hospital.

The Hankins want people to be aware that it is not just those diagnosed with Parkinson’s that are needed for the tests. Healthy people are needed as control subjects, which Bob has been participating in for years.

“The ultimate message is that we want to solve the problems we have with many of these diseases so we have to do clinical trials,” he said. “But the trials can only be conducted if we have enough volunteers that are willing to participate. That’s the bottom line.”

The Hankins are also encouraging those who may think they have the disease to take a smell test offered by the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The foundation will cover all expenses related to the test. Hankin said that it aims to find a marker, not a cure, for Parkinson’s to determine how likely someone is to get it. He said researchers believe that there may be a link to losing one’s sense of smell to contracting the disease.

“They are now reaching out to 200,000 people worldwide who are over age 60,” Hankin said. “If they meet the criteria, they are being asked to come in at one of the sites all over the world for further diagnosis.”

Hankin pointed to the foundation’s website where people can search for clinical trials in their area in which they can participate. He said that he has been going to a variety of senior citizen meetings where he passes on the information to people to get involved. The Hankins also go regularly to a Parkinson’s support group at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the City of Poughkeepsie to meet others in their situation and to spread the word about taking part in clinical trials.

“The gold standard for treating Parkinson’s is exercise,” Hankin said. “If you know that you are going to get it, you need to get on a heavy exercise regimen. We’re looking to catch people who may have just gotten it but don’t know yet.”

Hankin also sits on the Institutional Research Board at Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie. Though the hospital doesn’t have a neurological center for Parkinson’s research, it hasn’t stopped him from continuing his push to try to get one.

“Wherever we go we tell people about the necessity of finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease,” he said.

For more information on Parkinson’s disease and how to get involved in the effort to find a cure, call the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s toll-free national helpline at (800) 457-6676 or email info@pdf.org.

Source Date: Dec 05 2013
Source Publication: Hudson Valley Reporter
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