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Novel IBS Treatment Developed at UB Garners $8.5 Million for Seven-Year Clinical Trial

Study to test long-term effectiveness of home-based therapy

By Lois Baker

Release Date: November 13, 2008

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Behavioral scientist Jeffrey Lackner has received $8.5 million to study of a cognitive behavior therapy program to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic, debilitating disorder affecting 25 million people in the U.S -- 14-24 percent of women and 5-19 percent of men.

No reliable and satisfactory medical treatment exists for the full range of IBS symptoms, which can cause severe physical and psychological distress and deprive sufferers of their quality of life.

Based on a successful pilot study of a primarily at-home, self-administered cognitive behavior therapy program, a University at Buffalo behavioral scientist has received $8.5 million from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to conduct a seven-year, multi-site clinical trial of the program developed at UB.

The UB trial is the largest IBS clinical trial conducted to date and one of the largest behavioral trials funded by the NIH.

Jeffrey M. Lackner, Psy.D., assistant professor in the department of medicine, UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and director of its Behavioral Medicine Clinic at Erie County Medical Center, is principal investigator.

The trial will be conducted at three sites: UB, University at Alabama-Birmingham and Northwestern University. Following a 12-month planning period, 480 patients between the ages of 18 and 70 with moderate to severe IBS will be recruited over the following four years. Participants will be assigned randomly to one of three treatment groups: standard cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), in which patients will receive 10 weekly one-hour sessions with a therapist; home-based CBT plus 4 one-hour therapist sessions over 10 weeks; or education and support.

Participants will be reassessed at five points during the 12 months following the intervention to determine the long-term effectiveness of each treatment.

"In the short term, we hope to show that a self-administered version of cognitive behavior therapy for IBS is as effective as standard in-office treatment, but is more efficient, more accessible and less costly to deliver," said Lackner.

"In the long term, we hope to show that a self-administered behavioral treatment program maintains its effectiveness over time, can enhance the quality of patient care, improve clinical outcomes and decrease the economic costs of one of the most prevalent and intractable GI disorders."

Lackner noted that the trial addresses a major priority of the NIDDK of improving the quality of care for IBS and the surgeon general's call to develop relatively simple behavioral approaches for enhancing the long-term health of chronically ill Americans.

UB co-investigators are Leonard Katz, M.D., Michael Sitrin, M.D., Susan Krasner, Ph.D., Changxing Ma, Ph.D., and Ann Marie Carosella, Ph.D. Rebecca Firth is project coordinator.

Lackner's early research leading to an NIH-funded pilot study and the current NIDDK award was supported by an Interdisciplinary Research and Creative Activities grant from the UB Office of the Vice President for Research. In addition, the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Office of the Vice President for Research provided bridge funding to sustain Lackner's research between the pilot study and the NIDDK study.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.