Parkinson’s trial aims to detect disease at much earlier stage

A large study jointly led by Queen Mary University of London and UCL aims to identify people at risk of developing Parkinson’s, years before the condition is currently detected, with a view to treating and alleviating it at a much earlier stage.

A large study jointly led by Queen Mary University of London and UCL aims to identify people at risk of developing Parkinson’s, years before the condition is currently detected, with a view to treating and alleviating it at a much earlier stage.

The PREDICT-PD trial is seeking to recruit 10,000 participants over the age of 60 who do not have Parkinson’s to answer an annual online questionnaire and other tests sent in the post.

Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed through symptoms such as tremor, stiffness and slowness of movement. But by the time these appear, the condition is far progressed and has already caused substantial damage to the brain.

A range of problems, from loss of smell to sleep difficulties to subtle changes in cognition, are associated with early-stage Parkinson’s. These, along with factors such as head injuries and a family history of the condition, have enabled researchers to identify people at fourfold risk of the disease.

The PREDICT-PD study, funded by Parkinson’s UK, aims to build a much more detailed picture of this early phase, allowing the condition to be detected before it has become firmly established and raising the chance that a successful treatment may be found. Currently, treatments alleviate the symptoms, but do not slow the progression of the disease.

Dr Alastair Noyce, co-leader of the study at Queen Mary University of London, said: “In recent years we have made much progress in understanding what puts people at higher risk of Parkinson’s. We are now calling for the assistance of the UK population over the age of 60 to help us drive this research further forward and potentially change the Parkinson’s landscape forever.”

Professor Anette Schrag (UCL Clinical Neuroscience), co-leader of the study, said: “We believe that if we can predict who is going to get Parkinson’s, we will be able to develop treatments for those in the early stages that could slow or prevent the condition progressing – which would be a major step forwards towards a cure and could have knock-on implications for dementia and other age-related diseases of the brain.”

Participants in the study will be asked to complete a 20-minute online questionnaire each year, send a saliva sample and answer a “scratch and sniff” smell test. A small proportion of those taking part will be invited for further tests and to see a doctor. Volunteers are invited to register for the study and fill out the questionnaire at

Researchers are seeking to recruit 8,000 participants, as 2,000 people are already enrolled in a pilot version of the study.

Dr Beckie Port, Research Manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Studies like PREDICT-PD are critical to making sure we can deliver new and better treatments for everyone with Parkinson’s as fast as possible. Not only would early detection be a game changer for clinical trials, it would dramatically reduce the stress associated with delays in diagnosing Parkinson’s.

“By taking part in this ambitious study, people who are not living with the condition have the opportunity to help bring forward the day when no one fears Parkinson’s.”

The results will be used to test and refine an algorithm that predicts people’s risk of Parkinson’s. The algorithm was developed from a systematic review of previous studies identifying factors associated with a higher risk of the condition.

Parkinson’s is estimated to affect one in 350 people in the UK. It is the most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s is growing faster than for any other neurological condition.


Notes to editors

About Queen Mary University of London

At Queen Mary University of London, we believe that a diversity of ideas helps us achieve the previously unthinkable.

In 1785, Sir William Blizard established England’s first medical school, The London Hospital Medical College, to improve the health of east London’s inhabitants. Together with St Bartholomew’s Medical College, founded by John Abernethy in 1843 to help those living in the City of London, these two historic institutions are the bedrock of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Today, Barts and The London continues to uphold this commitment to pioneering medical education and research. Being firmly embedded within our east London community, and with an approach that is driven by the specific health needs of our diverse population, is what makes Barts and The London truly distinctive.

Our local community offer to us a window to the world, ensuring that our ground-breaking research in cancer, cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, and population health not only dramatically improves the outcomes for patients in London, but also has a far-reaching global impact.

This is just one of the many ways in which Queen Mary is continuing to push the boundaries of teaching, research and clinical practice, and helping us to achieve the previously unthinkable.

About UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff. | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel

About Parkinson’s

Every hour, two people in the UK are told they have Parkinson’s.

It affects 145,000 people in the UK – which is around one in 350 of the population.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition, for which there currently is no cure. The main symptoms of the condition are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.

Symptoms vary from person to person, so people with Parkinson’s can benefit hugely from local groups which provide support and an opportunity to share experiences with others in a similar situation.

Parkinson’s UK is the UK’s leading charity supporting those with the condition. Its mission is to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson’s through cutting edge research, information, support and campaigning.

For advice, information and support, visit or call our free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.

Media Contact
Joel Winston
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