Depression trial prompts call for funding boost

More needs to be invested in mental health to find new treatments, since around a third of patients do not respond to anti-depressants currently available.

That is the message from an honorary Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) consultant psychiatrist who says we “desperately need better outcomes for patients”.

Dr Golam Khandake

Dr Golam Khandaker (right), chief investigator of an ongoing clinical trial called The Insight Study, being conducted at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Cambridge Clinical Research Facility (CRF), spoke in a video about his work with fellow members of Cambridge-based Inflammation and Psychiatry Research Group, Dr Joel Parkinson and research assistants, Bianca Oltean and Eimear Foley.

He explains how they are investigating an anti-inflammatory drug called tocilizumab, commonly used to treat arthritis, which may help some of the millions of people worldwide who are diagnosed with depression.

Research suggests that low grade inflammation – or over-activity of one aspect of the immune system – may play a role in the development and persistence of depression.

The study is being run at CUH and is organised by the University of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, with support from the Wellcome Trust and the BMA Foundation. Insight is also supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN) eastern.

Participants receive an intravenous infusion at the NIHR Cambridge CRF of either tocilizumab or a dummy drug, they will  have their pulse and blood pressure checked, and answer questions on how they feel. Follow-up research visits takes place at week one, two and four after infusion.

The group investigates links between the immune system and neuropsychiatric brain disorders, particularly depression and schizophrenia. The aim is to identify novel treatments.

Dr Khandaker, a BMA Foundation for Medical Research J Moulton grant winner, said: “In our lifetime about 20 per cent of people will suffer from major depression.

“Charities play a crucial role in funding biomedical research in this country. We need to invest more in mental health research because we desperately need more treatments.

“With the help of this new J Moulton grant we will be able to do more new immunological assays to pin down the exact mechanisms of antidepressant effect of this drug.

“If this study shows that anti-inflammatory drugs improve mood, that could make a huge impact for thousands, if not millions of people, who suffer from these conditions.”

The Insight study is currently looking for participants. Anyone interested in supporting, or taking part in the study, should contact the study team by emailing at or by telephoning 01223 768 510. For more information about the study and to register your interest online. Recruitment in the Insight study will continue until the end of 2020.

You can view the video below.


Written by Cambridge University Hospitals