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PDF Celebrates its 50th with Unique Symposium on Parkinsonís Disease

To commemorate 50 years of service to the Parkinson’s community, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) will present a comprehensive and authoritative round-up of the state of Parkinson’s science at a two-day symposium on October 11 and 12.  The jam-packed program will feature top-notch Parkinson’s professionals presenting the latest news in Parkinson’s science and quality of life initiatives. 

The meeting, entitled Frontiers of Science and Clinical Advances in Quality of Life, will be open to everyone touched by Parkinson’s disease including researchers, clinicians, allied health professionals, people with Parkinson’s and caregivers.  It is being organized in collaboration with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and will be held in the historic South Street Seaport district of lower Manhattan.

The program, in two parallel tracks, will look at the progress that has been made over the last 10 years and where we expect to see future advances.  Here we share highlights from the program, packed with presentations from more than 40 Parkinson’s scientists and healthcare professionals on the most exciting breakthroughs in scientific research and studies of quality of life.  Educational credit is available to physicians, nurses, social workers and physical therapists.  

Examining the basic science of Parkinson’s

The basic science track for the event was planned by an expert committee chaired by Dr. Stanley Fahn of Columbia University, who also serves as PDF’s Scientific Director.  The committee identified the hottest topics in Parkinson’s science — including genetics, neurobiology, pathology, gene therapy and cell replacement — and then identified scientists who they believed would be the best presenters, topic by topic.  Every one of those invited accepted the committee’s invitation.   

“This is going to be a comprehensive review of where we have been and where we are going in Parkinson’s research, presented by premier neuroscientists in the field,” said Dr. Fahn.  “One topic that will be of particular interest, to both researchers and patients, is the recent Braak Staging Hypothesis, which suggests that movement problems are only the tip of the iceberg in indicating the pathology of Parkinson’s.  This session will evaluate the suggestion that movement symptoms may not be the earliest manifestations of the disease, prompting us to go about solving Parkinson’s disease by looking at it from different angles.”

Focusing on clinical research and quality of life

Parkinson’s science does not end with what goes on in the laboratory, in test tubes and in studies involving small animals.  It also includes clinical trials of potential treatments, and increasingly, examination of how people can live better with PD.  These subjects were the focus of a second expert committee headed by Drs. Lucien Côté and Karen Marder, both of Columbia University. 

Among the topics addressed by the committee were the preclinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease; respiratory, gastrointestinal, urological and sexual issues; sleep disorders; caregiver support and the therapeutic effect of exercise. 

“I’ve seen thousands of Parkinson’s patients and only one thing about them is the same:  they are all different!” said Dr. Côté.  “With a disease like Parkinson’s, where everyone’s case is unique, it is crucial to realize how it affects day-to-day living.  It is not enough just to take a pill to stop the tremor if a person cannot sleep or if they have severe constipation.  These are the issues that we are going to focus on, the issues that can make a real difference in the way a person lives.”

James Parkinson Award Dinner

A high point of the October event will be presentation, at a celebratory dinner following the first day’s program, of PDF’s James Parkinson Award, arguably the most prestigious award in Parkinson’s science, made only once each decade.  Past recipients include Nobel Prize winner Arvid Carlsson, Oleh Hornykiewicz, the late Melvin Yahr, J. William Langston and the late C. David Marsden.  

This year, the award — by decision of a distinguished independent scientific committee — will go to Dr. Stanley Fahn, in recognition of his lifetime of achievement as a scientist and clinician in Parkinson’s disease.  Dr. Fahn is Director of the Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Other Movement Disorders and the H. Houston Merritt Professor of Neurology at Columbia University.  His contributions to Parkinson’s science include work on organizing and executing the development of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, and ground-breaking work on the ELLDOPA project.  This study discovered that levodopa does not hasten the clinical progression of Parkinson’s disease, as some scientists had feared, and may actually slow it down.  For this work, Dr. Fahn was awarded the Annemarie Opprecht Foundation’s Parkinson Award for 2005, given every three years to the authors of the most outstanding papers published in Parkinson’s research.

At the same event, PDF will present a special 50th Anniversary award for achievements in Parkinson’s science over the past decade.  The award will go jointly to Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid, Chairman of Neurosurgery at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and Dr. Mahlon DeLong, Professor of Neurology at Emory University, for their achievements in developing deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease.  Dr. Benabid pioneered DBS for Parkinson’s in the 1990s when he discovered that he could stop tremor by giving an electrical stimulation in a specific area of the brain, leading to the development of the deep brain stimulator.  Dr. DeLong’s work in stereotactic mapping of the basal ganglia has helped to pinpoint the most effective areas of the brain to receive electrical stimulation.  The work of both these scientists has helped make the new Parkinson’s surgery what many people believe is the most important advance in Parkinson’s therapy since the development of levodopa four decades ago.

We hope that you will join us for this comprehensive and in-depth review of Parkinson’s science and to recognize the leaders in Parkinson’s research. 

People who are not able to attend the event may view the symposium via webcast.  For more information on PDF’s 50th Anniversary Educational Symposium and to register, or to purchase tickets to the James Parkinson Award Dinner, visit or call (800) 457-6676.  We strongly encourage early registration as seating is limited for both the symposium and dinner.

PDF would like to thank the following for their generous support of our 50th Anniversary Educational Symposium.

HealthShares, Inc.

Carol and Melvin Taub and Family
Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The Avicena Group
IMPAX Pharmaceuticals
Medtronic, Inc.
The Medtronic Foundation
Solstice Neurosciences, Inc.
Teva Neuroscience

Biogen Idec
Ceregene, Inc.
GE Healthcare Financial Services