Penn Medicine leads $45 million NIH-supported trial to study testosterone therapy in older men

November 02, 2009

PHILADELPHIA -Penn Medicine will lead a new national $45 million clinical trial to test whether testosterone therapy can favorably affect certain conditions affecting older men. Low serum testosterone may contribute to a number of problems affecting older men, including decreased ability to walk, loss of muscle mass and strength, decreased vitality, decreased sexual function, impaired cognition, cardiovascular disease and anemia. While testosterone normally decreases with age, in some men, low levels of testosterone may contribute to these debilitating conditions.

Led by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and conducted at 12 sites across the nation, the Testosterone Trial will involve 800 men age 65 and older with low testosterone levels. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is providing support for this large-scale clinical trial to evaluate the effect of testosterone therapy on older men.

The Testosterone Trial will include five separate studies. At each of the 12 sites, men 65 and older with low serum testosterone and at least one of the following conditions--anemia, decreased physical function, low vitality, impaired cognition or reduced sexual function--will be randomly assigned to participate in a treatment group or a control group. Treatment groups will be given a testosterone gel that is applied to the torso, abdomen, or upper arms; control groups will receive a placebo gel. Serum testosterone will be measured monthly for the first three months and quarterly thereafter up to one year. Participants will be tested on a wide range of measures to evaluate physical function, vitality, cognition, cardiovascular disease, and sexual function.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is the lead institution for the trial and will serve as coordinating center. Peter J. Snyder, M.D., Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Penn, is the principal investigator and will oversee trial activities. "This is an unprecedented opportunity for older men to learn more about themselves and at the same time help find out if testosterone will improve some of the afflictions of old age," said Dr. Snyder.

A 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine, "Testosterone and Aging: Clinical Research Directions," noted several important unanswered questions about the effects of testosterone therapy. Researchers aim to answer these questions by testing the effectiveness of testosterone therapy in older men with low testosterone levels and one of the following conditions: impaired walking, low vitality, sexual or cognitive dysfunction. A key consideration is the use of testosterone as a therapy for certain conditions, rather than as a preventive measure.

"This study is important because testosterone products have been marketed for many years as treatments for a variety of conditions," said Evan C. Hadley, M.D., director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology, which is the primary funder of the trial. "We hope this trial will establish whether testosterone therapy results in clear benefits for older men."
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Recruitment of study participants began in October of 2009. Men age 65 and older who are interested in participating should call the site closest to them. Men living within a 50-mile radius of the study centers, listed below, are especially encouraged to participate.

Participating institutions and their phone numbers include: Additional information about the study is available at www.ttrial.org and at http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00799617.

The NIA is the primary source of support for this trial. Additional funding is being provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which is also supplying the study drug. PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, received over $366 million in NIH grants (excluding contracts) in the 2008 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation's top ten "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, named one of the nation's "100 Top Hospitals" for cardiovascular care by Thomson Reuters. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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