VOLUME 31, NUMBER 17 THURSDAY, January 27, 2000

UB receives grant from NIH
$2 million to be used to conduct clinical trial of IBS treatments

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News Services Editor

Researchers from UB's Functional GI Disorders Center and the University at Albany have received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a clinical trial of two non-medical treatments for irritable bowel syndrome, one of the leading causes of work absenteeism.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and abnormal bowel movements. The condition affects an estimated 25 million adults in the U.S. and accounts for 2.4-3.5 million visits to the doctor annually. There is no standard medical treatment.

The four-year trial will test the effectiveness of cognitive therapy and self-help support groups in relieving symptoms of the condition. Jeffrey Lackner, clinical assistant professor of anesthesiology, director of the behavioral medicine clinic of the UB Pain Service at Erie County Medical Center and principal investigator of the Buffalo trial, said his research team has produced some of the strongest results extant using these treatments in high-quality, small-scale studies.

"There aren't many of these types of treatment programs in existence," Lackner said. "It is unusual in that we are using a non-drug treatment to decrease people's physical symptoms. Our measure of change is reduction in GI symptoms of IBS."

Irritable bowel syndrome is thought to be associated with anxiety, stress, diet and other lifestyle factors. "Stress doesn't cause the condition, but it can cause symptoms to flare up and can influence how symptoms are experienced, whether or not people go to the doctor, and how well an individual copes with the condition," Lackner said. "Stress affects bowel function in everyone, but the effect is greater in people with IBS."

Cognitive therapy is a specific type of psychotherapy that seeks to relieve stress, anxiety and other symptoms by changing a person's patterns of thinking.

The study will involve a total of 240 people in Buffalo and Albany. In addition to determining if participation in cognitive therapy or a support group improves symptoms compared to a control group, the researchers will try to establish which aspects of treatment-a change in thinking, improved coping skills, support per se or something else-are responsible for decreasing the symptoms.

They also will attempt to identify specific symptoms that may predict positive outcomes.

Susan Krasner, clinical assistant professor of anesthesiology and a postdoctoral fellow in the pain center, will be primary therapist on the Buffalo study. Peter Lance, associate professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, will be the study's GI specialist.

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