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'Depression biomarker' research to receive funding in Canada

September 1, 2011
by News release
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Toronto — Lundbeck Canada, a subsidiary of H. Lundbeck A/S, an international research-based pharmaceutical company, has made a donation of $2.7 million to support research at the University Health Network to identify biological markers that will enhance the diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from major depression and bipolar disorder.

The donation provided by Lundbeck Canada will fund the establishment of the Canadian Depression Biomarker Network, a Canada-wide research study into the biomarkers of depression that will involve six academic centres across Canada, including the Ontario Cancer Biomarker Network, the University Health Network, McMaster University, Queen's University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary.

"We are dedicated to finding new treatments for devastating central nervous system disorders, including depression and schizophrenia and we believe in advancing the highest quality research," said Marie Gagné, Vice President, Scientific Affairs at Lundbeck Canada. "Lundbeck is proud to support Dr. Sidney Kennedy and his team at the University Health Network to help improve the effectiveness of existing treatments for patients that will ultimately improve the quality of life of Canadians suffering from major depression."

The future of treatment for mood disorders lies in personalized medicine through the identification of biomarkers, as well as the development of targeted therapies, which will require large-scale studies to accurately define subpopulations.


The biomarker approach combines clinical data (including measures of anxiety, cognition, function/quality of life, life events, personality, and symptom severity) with molecular data providing measures of the function of genes and proteins in the body and brain scans (indicating the function of important mood-regulating brain circuits). Mathematical modelling techniques can be used to help identify clusters of biomarkers that indicate how a patient will respond to a treatment and make predictions about outcome.

Dr. Sidney Kennedy, Psychiatrist-in-Chief of University Health Network and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, is leading the study. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Kennedy has built a legacy of exemplary leadership in the field of mood disorders.

"Research into depression has revealed many outstanding advances in the areas of brain function, molecular biology and genetics," said Dr. Kennedy. "However, so far this hasn't been translated into advances in treatment. What we need is an integrated and unified approach that takes into account an individual's unique genetic, environmental and biological makeup, creating a 'personalized medicine' approach."

The Canadian Depression Biomarker Network will conduct a large-scale, Canada-wide research project in which detailed clinical, neuroimaging, genetic and molecular data will be collected from people with depression during a standardized, two-stage course of treatment. The research team will then identify those individuals whose symptoms remitted, and those who did not.

Using informatics and mathematical modeling techniques, they can identify profiles of individuals and use this information to make personalized predictions about treatment response, to develop appropriate treatment algorithms and identify new therapeutic targets. Improved treatment will also be pre-emptive in stopping further damage that occurs with repeated depressive episodes. This represents a revolutionary approach to the treatment of depression.

"Private-public partnerships such as this are essential to fuelling advances in medicine," said Tennys Hanson, President and CEO of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation. "We are very grateful to Lundbeck Canada for making it possible for Dr. Kennedy to pursue this ambitious, and potentially life-changing, research at such a crucial time."

Approximately 1 in 8 people in Canada will develop depression at some point in their lifetime, which carries a significant personal and health burden for the individual and society.1,2 Depression often co-occurs with anxiety or substance abuse disorders; is the most frequent reason for suicide; reduces quality of life to a greater degree than most other medical illnesses; decreases work productivity; and carries an increased risk of morbidity and mortality from other medical illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.3 The total cost to the Canadian economy is estimated at $51 billion per year, including direct medical costs and the indirect costs in lost productivity and other opportunities.4

References

  1. Ayuso-Mateos, J.L., 28-05-03. Global Burden of Unipolar Depressive Disorders in the Year 2000. World Health Organization Global Program on Evidence for Health Policy (GPE). Report No.: Global Burden of Disease Draft 28-05-03.
  2. Murray, C.J.L. & Lopez, A.C., 1996. Global Burden of Disease and Injury. Boston-Harvard School of Public Health.
  3. Collins, P.Y., et al., 2011. Grand Challenges in Global mental Health, Nature, 475 (doi:10.1038/475027a), pp. 27-30.
  4. Lim, K.-L., Jacobs, P. et al., 2008. A New Population-Based Measure of the Economic Burden of Mental Illness in Canada, Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28(3), pp. 92-98.

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