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Around and About the Community

Advocates Send a Message to Capitol Hill at PAN Forum

On Tuesday, March 30, 200 Parkinson's advocates gathered to present a unified, and strong message to Congress on such issues as the freedom to allow essential scientific investigations (e.g. stem cell research) and the funding of PD research. The drive, which included over 170 visits with legislators, followed a three-day conference on scientific developments and advocacy training at the Parkinson's Action Network's (PAN) 10th Annual Forum.

Seasoned professionals and newcomers put in long days in Washington, DC, to hone their skills in presenting PAN's Action Agenda to Congress. This agenda focuses on increasing appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other important Parkinson's research programs, as well as urging Congress to remove restrictions on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) experimentation.

The Forum concluded with the Louis Fishman Advocacy Awards dinner-a special opportunity for PAN to recognize exemplary leaders in the community. This year, the Louis Fishman Advocacy Award was presented to Michelle Lane, PAN Louisiana State Coordinator, for donating her efforts and time to the Parkinson's community. Murray Charters, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, received the Award of Outstanding Service to the Parkinson's Community in recognition of his extraordinary contributions in publicizing Parkinson's science. The award will hereafter be named the Murray Charters Award.

For more information on the Forum and PAN's Action Agenda, visit www.parkinsonsaction.org.

Founded in 1991, PAN is the unified education and advocacy voice of the Parkinson's community. PDF supports PAN's role as the leader of the advocacy community with an annual grant, currently $100,000.

Unity Walk Raises Spirits and Funds for Parkinson's

People with Parkinson's, family members, caregivers and community representatives packed New York's Central Park on Saturday, April 24 to meet a shining sun and join a celebration of the tenth annual Parkinson's Unity Walk. Seven thousand people (a record!) gathered to join the Parkinson Alliance for what people are calling the most successful Unity Walk yet.

Among those addressing the throng were Michael J. Fox- his down-to-earth, warm and pithy style as always in evidence-and Amy Comstock, the talented and elegant new head of the Parkinson's Action Network. While Mike rallied the walkers with his inspiring words, Comstock urged the crowd to seize the opportunity to be active in the Parkinson's community year-round by being an advocate in the fight against the disease.

In the spirit of honoring outstanding advocates, Murray Charters (yes, the same guy!) was presented with the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award for his exemplary contribution to Parkinson's education and advocacy.

Another feature was the presentation of the third annual MIRAPEX Victories Research Award to Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia University, in recognition of his research in Parkinson's disease non-motor symptomatology. The award is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer, makers of MIRAPEXģ.

All proceeds raised are designated for research and will be distributed among the major U.S. Parkinson's disease foundations.

2004 PDF Award Presented to Dr. Anthony E. Lang

Each year during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, a PDF-sponsored award is presented to the scientist chosen by the academy who best represents their ideals of involvement in scientific research, clinical care of patients and training of younger colleagues. PDF Executive Director Robin A. Elliott introduced Dr. Ira Shoulson (Rochester) who presented the 2004 award to Dr. Anthony E. Lang (Toronto).

Dr. Lang's acceptance presentation was titled "Time to Move Beyond the Dopamine Deficiency in Parkinson's Disease". Whether one is thinking symptomatic, protective, restorative or regenerative, other amino-acid systems are affected by the disorder, and likely have effects on such signs as mental-status changes and non-motor fluctuations.

He discussed several possible causal scenarios that may apply to different patients: 1) PD begins in the substantia nigra and influences other brain areas; 2) PD affects all involved areas simultaneously; and 3) the nigra is a later component and the rate of nigral cell loss may be accelerated by the dopaminergic system, and then other systems.

He predicted that in the future, non-dopaminergic features will predominate as such procedures as deep-brain stimulation improve longevity. Dr. Lang concluded that neuroprotection must be aimed at all of these systems in a combined protective therapy.