Rationale, design, and methods of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) network Study of Oxytocin in Autism to improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors (SOARS-B).
OBJECTIVE: To describe the rationale, design, and methods of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) network Study of Oxytocin in Autism to improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors (SOARS-B). METHOD: This phase 2 clinical trial was designed to evaluate the use of intranasal oxytocin treatment to improve social difficulties in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In total, 290 participants ages 3 to 17 years with a DSM-5 diagnosis of ASD were enrolled to receive 24 weeks of treatment with either oxytocin or a matched placebo at one of seven collaborating sites. Participants were subsequently treated with open-label oxytocin for 24 additional weeks. Post-treatment assessments were done approximately 4 weeks after treatment discontinuation. Plasma oxytocin and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) methylation level were measured at baseline, and week 8, 24 and 36 to explore potential relationships between these biomarkers and treatment response. RESULTS: This report describes the rationale, design, and methods of the SOARS-B clinical trial. CONCLUSIONS: There is a tremendous unmet need for safe and effective pharmacological treatment options that target the core symptoms of ASD. Several studies support the hypothesis that intranasal oxytocin could improve social orienting and the salience of social rewards in ASD, thereby enhancing reciprocal social behaviors. However, due to conflicting results from a number of pilot studies on the prosocial effects of exogenous oxytocin, this hypothesis remains controversial and inconclusive. SOARS-B is the best powered study to date to address this hypothesis and promises to improve our understanding of the safety and efficacy of intranasal oxytocin in the treatment of social deficits in children with ASD.
Spanos, M; Chandrasekhar, T; Kim, S-J; Hamer, RM; King, BH; McDougle, CJ; Sanders, KB; Gregory, SG; Kolevzon, A; Veenstra-VanderWeele, J; Sikich, L
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