Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust will begin screening patients with Huntington’s disease tomorrow (Thursday, November 24) as part of a pioneering UK drug trial which may offer new hope to people living with the condition.
Experts in neuropsychiatry at The Barberry in Edgbaston, part of the National Centre for Mental Health: Birmingham, will carry out tests to establish patients’ suitability to participate in the first trial of selisistat in the UK.
Huntington’s disease is a hereditary brain disorder which is usually developed in adulthood between age of 30 and 50 and can affect a person’s emotions, memory and movement. These are essentially caused by the presence of damaged or ‘bad’ proteins in their nerve cells, which the body cannot process and discard.
Existing drug therapies can treat some the symptoms but selisistat is the first drug designed to help the patient’s body break down these ‘bad’ proteins so they can be disposed of more easily.
This ground-breaking trial, which is part of a national trial led by Italian firm Siena Biotech, will test up to 15 patients in Birmingham over the next three months. The national trial will involve 50 patients in total.
This is not just a first for the trust but also for the first patient due to be screened Linda Smith*, who lives in Birmingham and has taken part in several smaller drug trials at the Barberry.
Dr Hugh Rickards, consultant in neuropsychiatry at BSMHFT, said: “This is a ground-breaking trial in the sense that we are testing a drug which may alter the underlying mechanism of Huntington’s disease.
“We are really happy to be offering our patients the chance to participate. This is at a very early stage but we are at the start of a new era of treatments for this disorder. It is also a great credit to the hard work of a number of people at BSMHFT that we are the first to get started with this trial in the UK.”
Huntington’s disease can affect people in different ways, even if they’re in the same family. Early symptoms can include uncontrollable muscular movements, clumsiness, lack of concentration, short-term memory lapses, depression and mood swings.
There is no cure for this condition but medication is often effective in the treatment of symptoms such as involuntary movements and depression.