December 02, 2021
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Michael J Fox Foundation funds ketamine trial to treat patients with PD, depression

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research awarded $2 million to a pair of researchers at Yale University for a clinical trial involving ketamine to treat depression in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“This is the first investigation of ketamine as an antidepressant in a neurological disorder," John H. Krystal, MD, chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry, said in a press release announcing the grant. "Results of this seminal trial could pave the way for a new generation of treatments for psychiatric symptoms in neurology.”

Sophie E. Holmes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology, and Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD, George D. and Esther S. Gross Professor of Psychiatry, were named as co-principal investigators of the study. Three others affiliated with the university will join the effort, which is part of a new research program that combines the neurology and psychology departments.

According to the release, researchers from the Yale department of psychiatry made the initial discovery that patients with treatment-resistant depression saw quick abatement of symptoms when given small amounts of ketamine. As a result of their work, the FDA recently approved the drug as a rapid-acting antidepressant.

“Depression is recognized as one of the most common complications of Parkinson’s disease, yet our ability to effectively provide treatment for the debilitating depressive symptoms associated with the disease remains extremely limited,” Sanacora said in the release.

Researchers plan to compare six doses of ketamine administered during a 3-week period against placebo given to 50 patients who display symptoms of PD and depression. Concurrently, the latest brain-imaging technology will be utilized to assess the impact of ketamine on synapses and other neurological networks.

“We need to do better at treating depression in Parkinson’s disease,” Holmes said in the release. “The findings of this research could change the way that it’s treated, leading to the discovery of fast-acting and effective treatments that in turn improve the quality of life for the many individuals with PD that suffer from depression.”