Cure Autism Now is proud to announce an important milestone in its ongoing efforts to improve and expedite medical treatment for autism and its related disorders. Today, Cure Autism Now announced the formation of a strategic alliance with the Autism Treatment Network (ATN), the nation's first network of hospitals and physicians that aims to bridge gaps in knowledge and understanding and to improve treatment for individuals with autism.
ATN includes physicians and healthcare practitioners from six leading medical centers that have come together to evaluate the medical conditions present in autism and provide best practices for their identification and treatment. The goal of the ATN is to create treatment guidelines that will be made broadly available to physicians, researchers, parents, policy makers and others dedicated to enhancing the medical care of individuals with autism.
Cure Autism Now will play a critical role in the development of ATN by providing financial support and offering the research capabilities and experience within the autism community that Cure Autism Now has developed over the past nine years. Peter Bell, CEO of Cure Autism Now, will join the ATN board of directors, and Richard Fade, Co-founder of ATN, will join Cure Autism Now's board. In addition, Cure Autism Now founding member Ricki Robinson, MD, MPH, will participate in the ATN medical committee.
"This is the organization that we, as parents and physicians, have been waiting for," commented Dr. Robinson. "This is the next logical step in CAN's efforts to establish effective medical treatments for our children. I am thrilled to play a part in this historic collaboration."
ATN will include regional "centers of excellence" where physicians will establish state-of-the-art care, conduct clinical research and mentor trainees. The initial treatment approach is based on a comprehensive model used at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. Other founding centers in the network include: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland; Columbia University Medical Center, New York City; Oregon Health & Science University, Portland; and University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle.
"ATN represents the start of a cooperative venture to study and create new treatments for autism," said Dr. Margaret Bauman of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and a member of CAN's Scientific Advisory Board. "It took focused leadership to bring together the many individual units studying children's cancers 30 years ago and have them cooperate in studying new treatments. Today there are dramatic improvements in the survival of children with cancers. Many people and programs are doing important research on mechanisms of childhood autism, but so far no one has developed a strong collaboration among centers focused on treating medical conditions in a way similar to the approach that revolutionized the care of childhood cancer."
As many families with autism have experienced, it is not easy to find effective treatment. As ATN gets closer to developing treatment standards, Cure Autism Now will work with the organization to ensure that those standards are broadly available to all treating physicians.
"With the establishment of evidence-based treatments, our families will one day have effective treatments available to them within driving distance of their homes," said Peter Bell.
Cure Autism Now Providing Help for Families Today
Participation in the development of the ATN is just the latest chapter in Cure Autism Now's history of addressing the treatment needs that families struggle with on a daily basis. In 1998, Cure Autism Now convened a group of clinicians and researchers in a consensus conference to develop the best practices in autism clinical care, diagnosis and research practices. The " " has helped many families get an appropriate medical work up for their children and served as a guideline for physicians. This ultimately led to the development of guidelines by the American Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society that are still in use today.
In the spring of 2002, Cure Autism Now convened a meeting of leading clinical researchers in autism from around the country to establish standards by which to accurately collect and analyze data in clinical research. The results of this meeting were published in the January 2004 issue of CNS Spectrums, the International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine. This was a landmark for those affected by autism, and the clinicians and researchers who treat them, since it provides the basis for uniform criteria for collecting and analyzing data, and raises the reliability and meaningfulness of clinical studies in autism. The conference findings set forth the necessary components of a clinical study in autism as well as approaches for future autism treatment trials.
Cure Autism Now has consistently recognized the urgent need to develop effective therapies that can treat both the core and domain-specific features of autism. To date, Cure Autism Now has funded 15 grants that involve some aspect of treatment, totaling over $500,000.
"CAN's achievements over the past nine years prove that science can be accelerated," said Peter Bell. "Now it is time to apply our expertise in hurrying science to helping the ATN develop a medical protocol that will make appropriate treatment options broadly available and accepted as standard practice within the medical community."
The initial steps will require testing standards of care and analyzing and presenting data that support evidence-based treatments through trials at the various sites. Developing best practice guidelines will take some time to implement and the program will expand as knowledge and experience is gained. While we expect that it will take two to three years before formal guidelines are developed and published, it is anticipated that people with autism can begin to experience the benefit within the first two years.
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