Dr Boyd Ghosh is a Consultant Neurologist at University Hospital Southampton and Salisbury District Hospital, and holder of a Research Leaders Programme (RLP) fellowship.
He has a particular interest in atypical parkinsonian syndromes, which share many symptoms with Parkinson’s disease but develop differently.
Establishing a specialist clinic
Boyd’s research career began with a PhD at the University of Cambridge, which investigated rare, atypical parkinsonian syndromes. These share many symptoms with Parkinson’s disease and are often misdiagnosed as such in the early stages of the disease.
He joined Southampton as a registrar but didn’t have time to do much research until he became a consultant, when he set up a specialist clinic for people with parkinsonian syndromes. This enabled him to do more commercial studies, leading some as Chief Investigator.
Eight years on, the clinic is now one of the largest in the country for people with these conditions. Each year it sees around 120 people with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), around 30 people with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) and around 30 people with Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS).
Patients, carers and families calling for research
One of the main drivers for Boyd’s research has been the patients at his clinic. Just like Parkinson’s disease, atypical parkinsonian syndromes have no cure. People with them lose their ability to move and think clearly, with symptoms getting progressively worse.
But unlike Parkinson’s disease, they tend to progress much more rapidly, with an average lifespan of only seven years from diagnosis. Some patients also develop other symptoms not seen in those with Parkinson’s disease, such as difficulty moving their eyes. There are no treatments that will cure or slow down these diseases.
“One of the things that patients, carers and families say is that they want to be involved in research,” explains Boyd. “These are terminal diseases, and you rapidly become very dependent. You can’t walk, you can’t talk, you can’t swallow, your bowel and bladder function become very poor, and you can also be cognitively impaired.
“These terrible diseases afflict people from a relatively early age, and the family are keen to find anything to help their loved ones.”
Expanding to include Parkinson’s disease research
Boyd is now looking to use his RLP fellowship to start research into Parkinson’s disease as well as maintaining research in atypical Parkinsonian syndromes. Parkinson’s disease is a much more common disease, which progresses over a longer time of 10-20 years, so he intends to lead larger studies, with more patients. This will require a larger time commitment, so he wouldn’t have been able to do it without the dedicated research time provided by the RLP.
He aims to form new collaborations with staff at the hospital who see patients with Parkinson’s disease, such as those working in Care of the Elderly and Neurology services. With time he hopes to make Southampton into a movement disorders research centre.
He believes this will not only benefit his own research career, but also the Trust as a whole, as Trusts who do more research have been shown to have better outcomes in all their patients.
He hopes his fellowship will enable more patients to take part in research. It will also mean they can see that the doctors treating them are doing all they can to provide the best possible care.
“I’m hoping that patients will feel more involved in research, and that they’ll have more hope for their disease as it progresses,” says Boyd. “They’ll know the clinicians that see them are trying their best to help them, and the people that come after them, to both find a cure and have the best symptomatic treatment that they can.”