May 10, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 19


In Memoriam

Who's New


Health Science Center launches nation's largest autism study


The department of family and community medicine is launching the largest and most rigorous trial for an autism treatment to date. Autism is a neuroimmune-development disorder affecting an estimated 1 in 300 Texas children. Autistic kids often have severe difficulties communicating and socially interacting with others.

The trial will test the effectiveness of the drug Secretin. Secretin is a pancreatic hormone that assists in digestion. "A high percentage of autistic children have gastrointestinal problems. They lack specific enzymes responsible for breaking down certain foods, particularly milk and wheat products," said Dr. Raymond Palmer, a nationally renowned autism expert and assistant professor in the department of family and community medicine. "Combined with behavioral interventions, the drug Secretin may help in the overall process of recovery. In some cases, you may see children begin to use language and become social again."

While there are standardized tests for determining if a child is autistic, there is no known cause or cure. "The best we can do right now is catch it early and begin immediate treatment involving the latest medical knowledge and behavioral therapies available," Dr. Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer is working in conjunction with the Texas Center for Autism Research and Treatment in San Antonio. Nine other sites are involved in the trial, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and UCLA.

Anyone interested in participating in the study can contact Theresa Madore, study coordinator, at (210) 590-3381 or toll free at (888) 338-2278, or send an e-mail to