Nilotinib is already approved for treating leukemia, but further research shows it addresses the fundamental needs of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease with dementia, and perhaps in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The experiment involved 12 patients who were used for a pilot study of the drug on these patients, and researchers found that cognitive functions and mobility improved in all 11 patients who completed the 6 months trial – according to a reported submitted at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.

The study’s author and director of the Movement Disorders Program at Georgetown University Medical Center, Fernando Pagan, revealed that a woman was able to feed herself again after taking the drug, and one man stopped using a walker, while three other who could not talk against started making speech.

Only 12 people were tested with the drug and great improvements recorded, but a larger number of people would need to be involved in the study, including those in placebo-controlled groups, before nilotinib could be verified to be effective at interrupting a process that kills brain cells in Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

74-year-old Alan Hoffman in Northern Virginia was one of the participants in the study. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1997, and could not move his arms or walk or make speech as time went on; and by 2007, his mental abilities started to be affected.

His wife Nancy said he had “more and more difficulty making sense” and soon became less active; he stopped having conversations and ultimately stopped helping with household chores because he couldn’t manage it. But his condition greatly improved after taking nilotinib, and now he “began loading the dishwasher, loading the clothes in the dryer, things he had not done in a long time.”

Hoffman was soon able to improve in cognitive tests scores, and he started holding conversations and making a lot of sense.

Charbel Moussa, an assistant professor of neurology at Georgetown University came up with the idea of using nilotinib for patients such as Hoffman, because he knew toxic proteins accumulate in some brain cells of people with Parkinson’s with dementia or those with Lewy body dementia. He thought the drug might reverse this development and stop the protein from destroying the cells.

After a lot of lab experiments, it became evident in Petri dish and mice experiments that nilotinib could kill cancer cells and make brain cells healthier, with a lot of proven efficacy in clinical and trial studies.