The DoD gave the two-year, peer-reviewed grant to the Foundation's North American Clinical Trials Network® (NACTN)

HOUSTON -- (Aug. 17, 2010) -- The United States Department of Defense (DoD) awarded the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation a $5.4 million grant to support the expansion of translational research to find treatments for military men and women with spinal cord injuries.

The DoD gave the two-year, peer-reviewed grant to the Foundation's North American Clinical Trials Network® (NACTN), an international network of hospitals led by Dr. Robert G. Grossman, chairman of neurosurgery at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston.

"Our goal is to bring effective treatments from the lab to the servicemen and women on our frontlines," said Grossman, NACTN's primary investigator. "With the support of DOD and the Reeve Foundation, our network can conduct more high-quality trials that we hope will result in viable therapies for spinal cord injury patients."

NACTN gathers and documents patient medical information in a data registry to better understand the body's natural course of recovery after injury; uses standardized patient assessment protocols and develops new ones; and conducts new trials of therapy for spinal cord injury.

NACTN recently began its first clinical trial this April, a Phase I safety study of Riluzole, a neuroprotective drug that is the only FDA-approved drug used in the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, where it prolongs the life spans of patients. Riluzole acts by blocking the ability of sodium and calcium ions to enter and damage neurons and glia. Laboratory studies have shown it to also be effective in limiting traumatic damage to the spinal cord. If no safety or toxicity issues emerge during the Phase I, a Phase II study of a larger number of patients will be undertaken as an efficacy trial.

NACTN, launched by the Reeve Foundation in 2006, originally had six centers in North America. Since then, the network has expanded to nine clinical sites, a data management center and a pharmacology center. NACTN hospitals are the Methodist Neurological Institute, Houston, TX; Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA; University of Louisville, Louisville, KY; University of Maryland Medical System, Baltimore, MD; University of Miami, Miami, FL; University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX; University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC. The data management and biostatistical center is in a separate location at the School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and the pharmacology center is located at the College of Pharmacy, University of Houston.

The new DoD award will enable NACTN to bring several new military hospitals into the network. "Spinal cord injuries can be devastating and this DoD award affords us the opportunity to test promising interventions in clinical trials and identify effective treatments for this country's war wounded and for spinal cord patients throughout the world," said Susan Howley, the Reeve Foundation's executive vice president for research.

The North American Clinical Trials Network® is supported by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command under Contract No. W81XWH-10-2-0042.

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