World first schizophrenia drug trial commences

A world first, three-year clinical drug trial for the treatment of schizophrenia will commence in July 2009 at Neuroscience Research Australia.

The trial is based on research conducted by leading schizophrenia researcher, Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert, who has discovered that a brain receptor that normally stimulates growth during adolescence can be abnormal in people with schizophrenia.

Prof Shannon Weickert is the Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research, a joint initiative of NeuRA, SRI and UNSW.

“We now know that this brain receptor does not work correctly in many people with schizophrenia,” said Prof Shannon Weickert. “With this drug trial, we plan to stimulate the faulty receptor to restore its function. This change in receptor function should lead to improvements in thinking ability, language, memory, motivation, and social skills.”

Participants will take Raloxifene, which is already used to treat cancer and osteoporosis, in addition to their ongoing medication. Raloxifene stimulates the oestrogen hormone receptor in the brain but does not produce feminising side-effects in males.

The aim is to learn how this oestrogen receptor regulator can influence thinking ability and social function in people with schizophrenia. The hope is that this drug will be used as a new additional therapy for these treatment resistant problems in people with schizophrenia.

The team, co-led by NeuRA’s Dr Thomas Weickert (also a senior lecturer at UNSW School of Psychiatry), are planning to recruit 88 male and female people with schizophrenia who are 18 to 50 years old.

If you are interested in taking part in the trials, contact Dr Richard Morris on 02 9399 1142 or email r.morris@neura.edu.au

This research was highlighted in the ABC’s Australian Story on Monday 11 May 2009. View the Australian Story Program

Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert

Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert