April 30, 2012

LA BioMed researchers remain at the forefront of mental health initiatives

The month of May recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month LOS ANGELES (April 30, 2012) – With the month of May recognized nationally as Mental Health Awareness Month, the physician-researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) continue to be at the forefront of mental health initiatives, engaging in clinical trials to help find therapies and treatments for individuals who suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental health concerns affect 1 in 10 Americans today, but fewer than 25 percent of people with a diagnosable mental disorder seek treatment. Ira Lesser, M.D., is a principal investigator at LA BioMed and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, at Harbor-UCLA. At LA BioMed, he has led a number of clinical trials on mood and anxiety disorders, including the largest ever conducted on depression – Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) – a study funded by the NIMH. LA BioMed was one of 41 clinical sites participating, enrolling the greatest number of individuals and was the highest primary care enrolling site in the country. "With a growing number of individuals being diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it's imperative that we educate these individuals as to the options available to them, and also encourage them to seek treatment," said Dr. Lesser. "At LA BioMed, we are working to develop treatments and therapies that will not only help to cure but also help individuals cope with their existing conditions in the long term." In addition to STAR*D, Dr. Lesser and his staff (Karl Burgoyne, M.D., Benjamin Furst, M.D., Deborah Flores, M.D.) are working on other clinical trials including Biomarkers for Rapid Identification of Treatment Effectiveness in Major Depression (BRITE) and Biomarkers for Outcomes in Late-Life Depression (BOLD). Working alongside Dr. Lesser is LA BioMed investigator Michele Berk, Ph.D., who is directing a multi-site, randomized clinical trial that tests the effects of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) on teenagers who have attempted suicide or engaged in self-harm behaviors, such as cutting. Suicide now ranks as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. among youth ages 10-19. DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing suicidal behavior in adults with depression and personality disorders. Sponsored by the NIMH, this study is the first such clinical trial in the U.S. to test the effectiveness of DBT in adolescents. John W. Tsuang, M.D., in conjunction with Steven J. Shoptaw, Ph.D., from the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, is spearheading a Phase I clinical safety trial that for the first time examines the effects of Ibudilast when administered with metamphetamine (MA), an addictive stimulant that is closely related to amphetamine. Funded by the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this study will help to determine the effects of Ibudilast - combined with relevant doses of MA - on heart rate and blood pressure, and whether or not Ibudilast alters the way in which the body absorbs, distributes, and metabolizes MA. The development of one or more medications to reduce MA abuse, when implemented with evidence-based behavioral and counseling interventions, would have obvious public health significance. Dr. Tsuang is hoping that following the initial safety trial, physicians will be able to utilize Ibudilast in treating patients with MA dependence to help them improve memory and reduce the damage done to their central nervous system due to MA abuse social worker continuing education About LA BioMed Founded in 1952, LA BioMed is one of the country's leading nonprofit independent biomedical research institutes. It has approximately 100 principal researchers conducting studies into improved treatments and cures for cancer, inherited diseases, infectious diseases, illnesses caused by environmental factors and more. It also educates young scientists and provides community services, including prenatal counseling and childhood nutrition programs. LA BioMed is academically affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. For more information, please visit www.LABioMed.org