Skin disease studies go deep: depression/inflammation insight

The placebo effect plays a big role in clinical trials for mood disorders such as depression. Emory psychiatrist Andy Miller hit upon something several years ago that could unlock a path around the placebo effect.

Miller and his colleagues have been looking at the connection between inflammation and depression. They’ve examined the ability of inflammation-inducing treatments for hepatitis C and cancer to trigger symptoms of depression, and have shown that the anti-inflammatory drug infliximab (mainly used for rheumatoid arthritis) can resolve some cases of treatment-resistant depression.

A recent paper in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics from Miller and psychiatry chair Mark Rapaport looks at clinical trials testing an anti-inflammatory drug against psoriasis, to see whether participants’ depressive symptoms improved. This sidesteps a situation where doctors’ main targets are the patients’ moods.

Two clinical trials studying the anti-inflammatory drug infliximab in depression are currently in progress at Emory, one led by Miller and another by Michael Treadway. Both are studying the effects of just one infusion of the drug, possibly allowing mechanistic insights. Also, both studies specifically recruit patients with high levels of the inflammatory marker CRP, which Miller’s previous study showed was helpful in predicting response to infliximab.

Both Drs. Miller and Treadway are faculty members in the NS program.

Click here to view the full story in Lab Land - The Emory Health Sciences Research Blog.