HBF backing research to improve depression treatment

Latest News

HBF has backed research that seeks to use a gene-based approach to determine which patients will respond to medications for depression.

The research, being conducted by The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Young Lives Matter Foundation and Meeting for Minds, has been funded by HBF.

A clinical trial will analyse whether treatment guided by the use of pharmacogenomics (PG) is more effective than the widely adopted ‘trial and error’ approach.

Approximately 80 patients in Western Australia will be recruited for the trial in mid-2021. The trial will be mirrored in New South Wales, with both data sets combined and analysed in 2022. 

HBF named UWA’s Young Lives Matter Foundation its second Community Partner in as many years. Under the partnership, HBF will provide $300,000 to support the trial over the next three years.

Professor Sean Hood, the head of UWA Medical School’s Psychiatry Division and consultant psychiatrist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s Mental Health Unit, said evidence from similar international trials of PG-guided treatment for depression was highly promising.

“We’re seeing people receive the right medication, at the right dosage, at the right intervention time based on their genetic profile,” said Professor Hood.

He said that under the current ‘one-drug-fits-all’ approach, up to half of all newly diagnosed patients do not respond adequately to their prescribed anti-depressant.

“It’s a process of trial and error. Many patients spend years switching from one medication to the next in search of something that works,” he said.

“The sad truth is that many people with treatment-resistant depression commit suicide before they are prescribed the right medication for them. This trial has the potential to change that – it could be life-saving.”

One-in-seven Australians experiencing depression in their lifetime. HBF CEO John Van Der Wielen said there was a clear community need for improved mental healthcare.

“PG has already guided treatment of other diseases, including cancer. This trial could be the catalyst our health system needs for the widespread adoption of precise, personalised treatment of depression,” he said.

“It would give Australians living with this illness a much greater chance of managing their condition, early, and improving their quality of life.”