nellie faye Hagberg shows the pump that delivers a gel form of a Parkinson’s disease drug she is taking in a clinical trial.
Parkinson’s disease literal y wiped the smile
trials give from nelie faye Hagberg’s face.
Her smile had greeted thousands of East Africans, some of whom
she tutored in English while she and husband, Ray, were missionaries for 36 years in Tanzania.
It had given hope and courage to her three children, al born and
Then, about 20 years ago, Parkinson’s disease began to mask her
gregarious nature. “I was under the age of 60, so thought I was going through menopause,” she said.
Her face deadpanned, as muscles grew taut. Pain in her neck and
shoulder lead her to a neurologist, who diagnosed the disease.
Now, her smile has returned thanks to an experimental drug taken
since April through a clinical trial at UNMC.
“I feel like my old self again,” said Hagberg, 74. “I have more
energy, more life. I’m smiling, joking around — even ornery. This medicine has al owed me to regain my sense of self.”
Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder that kil s dopamine-
producing brain cel s, causes tremors, stiffness, slowness and impaired balance.
About one mil ion Americans live with Parkinson’s and there is no
cure — though medications provide some relief.
Before a new drug comes on the market, it must first pass through
rigorous cel ular, animal and final y human testing — or clinical trials.
Clinical trials determine how wel new medical approaches work in
people. Each study attempts to answer scientific questions and tries to find
better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose or treat a disease. Clinical trials
also may compare a new treatment to a treatment already available.
At UNMC, clinical research has been expanding the past few years
to improve patient care, safety and health outcomes. Two people at
the forefront of this movement are Jennifer Larsen, M.D., associate vice chancel or for clinical research, and Chris Kratochvil, M.D., assistant vice chancel or for clinical research. Dr. Larsen was recently named the new vice
At UNMC, Hagberg is one of two participants in a multi-
chancel or for research effective July 1.
institutional clinical trial to test the effectiveness and safety of a gel
“We’re further developing our infrastructure for clinical research,
form of the drug levodopa-carbidopa. Although not accepting more
integrating operations, and bringing together such partners as The Nebraska
patients at UNMC, the trial eventual y wil enrol 320 people from
Medical Center, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and affiliated
around the world. John Bertoni, M.D., professor of neurological
institutions to provide increased resources and opportunities for clinical
sciences, is the principal investigator at UNMC.
The oral tablet form of levodopa-carbidopa is the primary drug
UNMC is the home for the Center for Clinical and Translational
prescribed in the United States, but may not be absorbed efficiently,
Research and The Great Plains Center for Clinical and Translational
said Carolyn Peterson, nurse coordinator of the trial.
Research, which is committed to innovative clinical and translational
The gel form, which is marketed in Europe but not in the U.S., is
research that reduces rural health disparities and improves rural health.
pumped directly into the smal intestine for 16 hours a day where it is
Drs. Kratochvil and Larsen have created a number of research education
seminars, symposia and workshops for faculty and staff to learn about
For the trial, Hagberg had a tube inserted into her stomach. She
different aspects of clinical trials. This fal , a six-part series wil be offered to
carries the pump and medicine in a pouch the size of a videotape
investigators on issues related to clinical research.
UNMC has specifical y reached out to partner with pharmaceutical
Every 40 days, she travels four hours from her Spencer, Neb.,
companies on new drug development and clinical trials. Recently, Quintiles,
home to get a supply of medicine at UNMC. This wil continue for
the largest clinical research organization in the world, named UNMC a
the next four years or until the drug gains approval in the U.S.
prime site through which to conduct clinical trials. Dr. Kratochvil was named
Ray, her husband of 55 years, is her driver, companion and
chief medical officer for UNeHealth to administer these agreements and
caregiver. “He keeps track of al my medicines, helps me al day
connect researchers to external y sponsored study opportunities.
and night and is there for me al the time. He helps me through the
“This is exciting for the medical center and the region,” Dr. Kratochvil
rough spots. There’s no way I could be in this study without his help.
said. “We expect to eventual y conduct an additional 30 to 50 new clinical
trials per year at UNMC. These trials wil involve a wide spectrum of patients,
Hagberg looks forward to continuing in trials for this medication.
ranging from oncology and endocrinology to psychiatry and pediatrics.”
“We can only make advances in medical care when people are
Drs. Larsen and Kratochvil developed a database of clinical trials
wil ing to take a risk. Without participation, there won’t be progress,”
being performed at UNMC available on the UNMC web site. Health care
providers or patients themselves can search to find a study specific to a
“Somebody has to do it, why not me?”
particular condition or disease. This clinical trials database can be found at: unmc.edu/clinicaltrials.
“Translational research links the expertise we have in the laboratory with
our clinicians,” Dr. Kratochvil said. “It’s a growing area for UNMC and the
The ultimate goal: Move new medicines from the laboratory to the clinic
Watch Hagberg talk about Parkinson’s Disease.
Watch a video about clinical trials.
use new injecting equipment, swab the site you intend I’ve been buying my gear from the same dealer for the past to use before injecting, use sterile water to mix up, and 12 months. Last week I rang my ‘man’ to score on pay day, wash your hands before injecting. Normal bacteria in but to my disappointment he answered the phone from a the mouth can lead to endocarditis if it ends
Department of Kinesiology Report, 2010-2011 Co-Authored Publications with Students Faculty Members in Bold 1. Brewer, R.M., & Pedersen, P.M. (2010). Franchises, value drivers, and the application of valuation analysis to sport sponsorship. Journal of Sponsorship, 3 (2), 181-193. 2. Suh, Y., Lim, C., Kwak, D., & Pedersen, P.M . (2010). Examining the psychological factor