Spotlight on Clinical Research
Research May Lead to New Treatments for Depression
An estimated 40 percent of people suffering from depression have an incomplete response to medication and many others only respond after many months or years of trying different treatments. But research conducted at Yale and several other institutions around the country has shown promising results for new treatments that may be more effective and work much faster.
Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD and his colleagues have been conducting research studies on ketamine, which has traditionally been used as a general anesthetic for children. More recently, ketamine has been shown to rapidly improve symptoms of depression, sometimes in a matter of hours.
Clinical studies have involved very specific doses of ketamine that are administered intravenously under close medical supervision. Ketamine has also been used as a recreational drug known as “Special K,” and Sanacora cautions that when not administered properly under appropriate medical supervision it can be deadly.
Although still in the early stages of research, in the clinical setting, ketamine may have a direct benefit treating patients hospitalized with depression or even helping patients avoid hospitalization altogether. Sanacora is working to understand the mechanism behind its effectiveness. “We’re extremely excited about the science behind this drug,” he said. “It could represent a major change in the way depression is treated, but we have to study it further.”
In the meantime, this research has opened the door to studying similar drugs that may be safer to administer. The Yale Depression Research Clinic has had promising preliminary results with Riluzole, an FDA approved medication that is currently only indicated for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Other compounds similar to ketamine may also soon be tested in clinical trials. “This has opened up a whole new area of drug targets for both existing and newly developing drugs,” said Sanacora.
For more information on clinical trials to treat depression, please visit www.depression.yale.edu to contact the Yale Depression Clinic. For information on clinical trials in general, please visit www.yalestudies.org.