Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center Chosen for New Clinical Trial Initiative

The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is one of three centers chosen by The Michael J. Fox Foundation to participate in a unique new initiative, called the Parkinson’s Disease Trial Recruitment Innovation program, to increase clinical trial awareness, accessibility, and volunteer enrollment.

Clinical trials are vital to Parkinson’s research and progress. The only route to new and better Parkinson’s treatments, and ultimately a cure, is through research studies, experts say. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has awarded $125,000 to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center for this initiative.

“Our goal at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is to not only expand the amount of clinical studies available for patients, but to also make them more accessible for qualifying patients,” says Holly Shill, MD, movement disorder neurologist and director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. “We are honored to have been selected by The Michael J. Fox Foundation to participate in this important initiative.”

photo of phoenix neurologist holly shill
Dr. Holly Shill
Barrow Neurologist

Researchers say that willing participants are crucial to the successful completion of trials and the development of novel therapies. Unfortunately, the majority of clinical research studies face recruitment challenges that lead to increased costs and sometimes even study abandonment. Certain barriers, such as limited knowledge of research opportunities, negative perceptions of research, and lack of transportation can prevent eligible individuals from participating.

The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is the most comprehensive Parkinson’s treatment center in the United States. It is part of Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

“Clinical trial sites enroll, on average, only one volunteer per month,” says Sohini Chowdhury, deputy CEO at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. “This contributes to the lengthy process of Parkinson’s drug development, and the Parkinson’s Disease Trial Recruitment Innovation program aims to advance understanding of recruitment to address this challenge.”

The initiative may help by creating a clinical trial referral network for community physicians; engaging caregivers to help make trials more accessible to Parkinson’s patients with cognitive impairment; or by offering transportation to and from clinical trial visits in partnership with ride sharing services.

The criteria that The Michael J. Fox Foundation used for selection included a large clinical research portfolio, strong infrastructure for executing Parkinson’s clinical trials, and commitment to implementing and assessing novel interventions for recruitment of research volunteers. The other centers are: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston; and Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.

Each trial center will perform ongoing evaluations of their programs. The three sites plan to submit their experiences for peer-reviewed publication to inform clinical trial recruitment practices and speed field-wide developments in Parkinson’s research.