UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 6 |
Jun. 3, 2004
New Centre Promises Better Treatments for Depression, Bipolar
Plans to translate research rapidly into improved care
By Hilary Thomson
People suffering from disabling mood disorders such as depression
and bipolar disorder can expect improved assessments and treatment
with the opening of the Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence
at UBC Hospital, part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Research
"This facility will offer research and patient care
with a 'bench to bedside' approach focusing on rapid translation
of research into improved care," says Dr. Alison Buchan,
associate dean, Research, UBC Faculty of Medicine. "Co-ordinating
mood disorder research in B.C. will help us recruit faculty
to this outstanding multidisciplinary team," adds Dr.
Bernie Bressler VCHRI director.
Directed by Dr. Raymond Lam, a UBC professor of psychiatry
and a key investigator with VCHRI, the Mood Disorders Centre
has received approximately $4.5 million in new research funding
from community support. Its two program streams are the Bipolar
Disorder Program and the BC Credit Union Centre for Excellence
in Depression Research and Care.
The depression centre is supported by a gift of more than
$1 million from B.C. credit unions that will provide for additional
researcher positions to expand the reach of the centre. New
programs of treatment include ReChORD (Relief of Chronic or
Resistant Depression) that uses an integrated and comprehensive
approach, including expert medication management, psychotherapy,
and occupational therapy.
A key element of the Bipolar Disorder Program is an early
mania treatment program. Called Systematic Treatment Optimization
Program in Early Mania (STOP-EM), it is made possible through
unrestricted funding of $1.5 million from pharmaceutical company
STOP-EM will provide early and accurate identification and
diagnosis, using comprehensive clinical assessment as well
as neuropsychology and neuroimaging approaches. Treatment
will include pharmacological and psychosocial therapies.
"Patients, especially young adults, with bipolar disorder
often suffer for years without correct diagnosis or treatment.
We want to increase chances of improvement and recovery by
diagnosing and treating individuals soon after their first
manic episode," says UBC professor of psychiatry Dr.
Lakshmi Yatham, a VCHRI researcher and world leader in bipolar
treatment, who will oversee the program.
Patients aged 14 and older with a current or recent first
manic episode can be referred to the program for assessment,
treatment and optional participation in the research component
of STOP-EM. Researchers will assess social and intellectual
functioning, brain structure and chemistry and provide genetic
AstraZeneca is a leading global pharmaceutical company with
an extensive product portfolio spanning six major therapeutic
areas: cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, infection, neuroscience,
oncology, and respiratory.
The B.C. credit union system is the largest network of financial
institutions in the province with 61 credit unions with 340
branches in 125 communities, employing 7,000 people.
VCHRI is a joint venture between UBC and Vancouver Coastal
Health that promotes development of new researchers and research
Nearly three million Canadians will experience clinical depression
-- an illness that usually develops between the ages of 24
and 44. Symptoms include sleep, appetite and energy problems,
social withdrawal and irritability, and despair.
However, four out of five people with depression can be successfully
treated within weeks. Depression is a leading cause of disability
from work and costs more than $5 billion per year to manage.
About 15 per cent of people with severe depression commit
Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive illness,
is a severe mood disorder that affects about one million Canadians.
Patients with this disorder experience both severe depressions
as well as manic episodes (common symptoms include irritability,
aggressive behaviour, lack of judgement, impulsivity, decreased
sleep and increased energy, and often psychosis), both of
which are debilitating. A brain disorder, it typically develops
in adolescence or early adulthood. Affecting up to four per
cent of adults, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause
of disability worldwide among 15-44-year-olds.