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Temple University Hospital One of Five U.S. Sites Testing Rapidly-Acting Depression Drug

POSTED ON May 13, 2015

Mary F. Morrison, MD, MSCurrent treatments for depression are often frustrating for patients. Antidepressant medications are typically slow to work, often taking four to six weeks to show results. In other patients, medications only work partially or not at all.

Temple University Hospital is one of five sites in the U.S. chosen to participate in the Rapidly-Acting Treatments for Treatment-Resistant Depression (RAPID-KOR) study – a Phase II research trial that is testing a compound which may speed therapy for severe, treatment-resistant depression. The study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

"When you're depressed, it's not easy to wait a month or more for medication to start working," says Mary F. Morrison, MD, MS, lead investigator of the trial at Temple and Vice Chair for Research Development for Psychiatry at the Temple University School of Medicine. "The urgent need for improved, faster-acting treatments is underscored by the fact that severe depression can be life-threatening, due to heightened risk of suicide."

The RAPID trial is testing a compound known as CERC-501 (an investigational medication) that is taken orally for six days. CERC-501 is a selective kappa opioid receptor antagonist, which means it acts upon the endogenous opiate system in the regions of the brain that are involved in stress and depression.

"The exact mechanisms of why CERC-501 might relieve symptoms of depression are not known, but chronic stress increases dynorphin, part of the kappa opiate system, and dynorphin can cause low mood," says Dr. Morrison.

During the trial, patients take CERC-501 for six days. Their symptoms are assessed each day while on the compound and then during follow-up visits that end 14 days after the last dose. Patients continue on their current antidepressants during the trial.

"This compound is not a cure for all depression, but the hope is that it can act as a 'booster' for patients, giving them fast-acting relief of their depressive symptoms and augment the action of their initial antidepressant," says Dr. Morrison. "Through this research, we hope to enhance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of depression and guide the development of new ways to quickly help patients who have not responded to current antidepressant medications."

Temple is currently pre-screening patients for the trial. Interested individuals may call Jennifer Henry at 215-707-8204 or email her at Jennifer.Henry@tuhs.temple.edu for more information.