September is officially recognized as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Combined with the coming anniversary of Christopher Reeve's birthday on September 25th, this is a month where we can make a realistic attempt to deliver a unified message: We want a cure for paralysis!
A cure for paralysis can and will be achieved. Many researchers now believe that science itself is not the obstacle to curing paralysis. Rather it is the impediments that are preventing a cure, primarily the costs needed to bring a therapy to market for such a small target market. Eliminating these financial obstacles will encourage translation of existing animal therapies into human trials and will attract companies to take a first or second look at curing paralysis.
One way of eliminating these financial obstacles is through the creation of a clinical trial network. As things stand now, a company such as Geron will have to run dual trials comparing the efficacy of their glial-restricted precursor therapy against either a placebo group (injured people who receive no treatment) or a group of injured people who have received the "best" course of treatment. The need to test against a second group would be extremely costly, but this need can be eliminated.
A clinical trial network could eliminate this need by establishing current best practices every year. These best pratices would be determined, initially, by comparing practices currently believed to be optimal for recovery. An initial comparison may focus on methylprednisolone administered acutely after injury against acute methylprednisolone administration plus extensive rehabilitation against extensive rehabilitation by itself. The top outcome measures from among these treatments would then be considered the golden standard by which other treatments are measured against.
Each year the top treatment would receive the gold standard, becoming the new measuring stick for other potential treatments. These initial costs would be paid for by the clinical trial network, reducing the financial burden on the companies attempting to cure us. The network would also employ the clinicians and doctors who evaluate pre- and post-operative measures of function for all treatments, allowing consistent and objective assessment of potential cures without bias.
The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act combines such a network with a consortia of top-ranked researchers who are constantly on the lookout for promising new treatments, working amongst themselves to replicate exciting findings to reduce the lag time between publications. If it looks good and it works, it goes to human trials.
We want a cure! The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act will quicken our path.
In honor of Christopher Reeve (and our own self-serving purposes, of course), let's aim to have the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act on President Bush's desk by September 25th. If we can accomplish that, he will have to answer the question: "Mr. President, do you want to cure paralysis?"
It's up to him to sign the bill. It's up to us to get it on his desk so he can.
September: We Want a Cure Month!