Anti-inflammatory drugs could offer hope for patients with depression

Scientists led by Professor Ed Bullmore, director of Research and Development at CPFT have found that drugs used to treat arthritis could help to treat people with depression.

Anti-inflammatory drugs could offer hope for patients with depression
22 May 2017

Experts from Cambridge and six other universities, along with researchers from two pharmaceutical companies, are investigating whether some cases of depression could be triggered by an overactive immune system. Professor Ed Bulllmore, director of R&D

Inflammation is part of the immune system's response to danger. It is a complex process to prepare the  body to fight off hostile forces. If inflammation is too low then an infection can get out of hand but if it is too high, it causes damage. And for some reason, about one-third of depressed patients have consistently high levels of inflammation.

Anti-depressants don't work in a third of patients so if this new approach works it may offer them hope of an effective treatment.

Leading the trial is Professor Ed Bullmore. He said: "Depression and inflammation often go hand in hand. If you have ’flu, the immune system reacts to that, you become inflamed and very often people find that their mood changes too. Their behaviour changes, they may become less sociable, more sleepy, more withdrawn. They may begin to have some of the negative ways of thinking that are characteristic of depression and all of that follows an infection."

Scientists are now looking for markers of inflammation which is a sign that the immune system is in overdrive, and Professor Bullmore, director of research and development at CPFT, says existing arthritis drugs could be repurposed to help people with depression:

“If we can identify the biomarkers that will allow us to predict which patients with depression are most likely to respond to anti inflammatory drugs, the good news is that there is a lot of those types of drugs already available that might turn out to be effective anti depressants.  That could mean new treatments for a condition that affects 300 million people worldwide.”

CPFT, which provides mental health and physical health services, offers a range of support for people with mental health problems.

Among the services offered by the Trust is the First Response Service. Anyone living in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who is experiencing a mental health crisis can phone the NHS 111 emergency helpline and select option 2 and speak to a trained mental health professional.

The Trust also operates the Psychological Wellbeing Service for anyone experiencing depression, anxiety or stress. Anyone who is registered with a GP in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can refer themselves directly to the service by using the form on the CPFT website – www.cpft.nhs.uk  – or by calling 0300 300 0055.

The project led by Professor Bullmore, head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, received a Strategic Award of £5 million from the Wellcome Trust. It is public-private partnership between seven universities (Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, King’s College London, Oxford, Southampton and Sussex) and the companies Janssen Research & Development LLC and H. Lundbeck A/S (Lundbeck). The project was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in London.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
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