Roadmap to a Cure

The following answers basic questions about the Roadmap and how it is guiding researchers far and wide to explore and find a cure for tinnitus.

Written by Anthony Cacace, Ph.D., Richard Salvi, Ph.D., James Kaltenbach, Ph.D.,
Jay Rubinstein, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Seidman, M.D., FACS, ATA's
Roadmap to a Cure subcommittee.

 

What is the Roadmap to a Cure?

Simply, it's a chart that identifies what we know about tinnitus right now and what additional information we need so that we can make progress in developing a cure. Because science doesn't always follow a direct course, a roadmap is an excellent way to help shorten the path from the starting point to the final goal.

We see this Roadmap as a way to give tinnitus patients and researchers everywhere a firm grasp of what's going on in tinnitus research. There are many battles along the way, and each little battle is important to fight and win. If we find a solution to any one of the Paths, we will have helped improve people's lives. And though improvement is not a cure, our Roadmap will ultimately take us there.

Who uses the Roadmap?

When you look at ATA's Roadmap, you will see that no single individual could tackle all the different areas we identify. The map allows researchers in different areas of exploration to contribute to the overall success of the Roadmap. It also provides us with a way to attract talented researchers from a variety of specialties. This ultimately might have the biggest impact on resolving tinnitus. 

What do the four paths of the Roadmap represent?

The Roadmap is a sequence of steps along four paths- A, B, C & D- that begins with finding out what is responsible for producing tinnitus and ends with a successful tinnitus treatment.

  

  

  • Path A leads us to identify where the problem is in the brain.
     
  • Path B will determine the underlying mechanism (action) that causes tinnitus. Like doing an auto diagnostic, we identify the broken part and then what caused it to break.
     
  • Path C will lead us to develop a general therapy for tinnitus.
     
  • Path D leads us to customizing the therapy or therapies for individual tinnitus patients.

How does work on the four paths coordinate?

Even though we don't have a full understanding of what's going on in Paths A and B, there is work going on now along Paths C and D. This doesn't at all rule out the potential for successful studies. Many discoveries are made serendipitously. Somebody may, in fact, come up with a therapy that works even though the reason why it works isn't fully understood. 

Where on the Roadmap are we now?

Different labs and clinics are in different places on the Roadmap. Clinicians tend to be in Path A, looking for abnormal activity in the brains of their tinnitus patients with imaging techniques, such as functional MRIs. Other researchers are working in Path C, looking for evidence that certain treatments are better than others, e.g., how one masking method may be better than another. Because we have not yet found any one treatment that works for most people with tinnitus, Path D is probably the furthest down the road. 

When is the Roadmap going to make a difference in the lives of tinnitus patients?

It could happen anytime. ATA is very optimistic about a cure because of the breakthroughs in areas like electrical stimulation, sound therapy, pharmacology and brain imaging studies that we've seen in the past five to ten years. Because of the work ATA is doing to increase public funding through the U.S. Government for research dollars - the pool of available funding has increased exponentially. All efforts that will help to expedite a cure.

It is difficult to put a time frame on science - it is more important that we truly understand how tinnitus manifests itself in various subsets of patients and which treatment options are appropriate for each individual subset of tinnitus patients. For instance, curing those with noise-induced tinnitus, may be very different from curing those who suffer a brain injury and sustain tinnitus as a result.

So while we would love to tell you "when" it is more important that we focus on "how" and also consider that some tinnitus patients have already reaped the benefits of studies funded through the Roadmap. One thing we can tell is you is that ATA is here to be certain that one day everyone with tinnitus will benefit from an eventual cure.