Could Ketamine conquer treatment-resistant depression?

Transcript

{Video opens with music and pictures of UTSW patient Megan Joyce along with her mother and with her husband.}

Megan Joyce: Everything in my life seems great.

Narrator: Megan Joyce’s life may look picture perfect.

Megan: I graduated college. I got married. He’s an amazing person. He is incredibly supportive.

Narrator: But what these happy photos hide is a relentless inner struggle.

Megan: This is not something that I love to admit, but I fight for my life every single day.

Narrator: The 27-year-old has spent more than a decade battling severe depression. It triggers for no obvious reason.

Megan: They have defined my bipolar illness as treatment resistant.

Narrator: She says she tried every medication in the books … as well as checking into inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. Nothing worked. Until doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center tried something bold. Ketamine infusion therapy.

Megan: I don’t know if I would be here without the Ketamine treatment. I drive from Austin every 10 days, and I come for treatment, and I’m in the hospital for about 5 hours, and then I go home the same day.

Narrator: Several studies show ketamine can quickly stabilize severely depressed patients. But it does come with risks.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi: There is a risk for addiction so that if people start taking Ketamine on their own on the black market, then that can be very dangerous. There are toxic effects in the brain if you overdose. On the other hand, for patients who do well on this and are getting the right dose under the guidance of a physician, it can be life saving.

Megan: When I have the IV in, it’s for 40 minutes, and then I stay for 2 hours after because it is an anesthetic so they want to make sure you don’t have adverse side effects.

Narrator: Dr. Madukhar Trivedi is closely monitoring Joyce … as well as the work his colleagues are doing at the bench.

Dr. Trivedi: At UT Southwestern, we have the whole breadth of work being done. There are people working like Dr. Monteggia in basic research. Understanding the exact mechanism of how Ketamine changes molecularly and changes the mechanism of action.

Dr. Lisa Monteggia: We got involved with how Ketamine triggers an anti-depressant effect because of the real need. Some of the recent clinical data has really shown that about a third of all patients don’t respond to anti-depressants. So, what do you do for treatment for those individuals?

Narrator: UT Southwestern’s Dr. Lisa Monteggia is a neuroscientist whose lab pinpointed a key protein that helps tigger Ketamine’s rapid antidepressent effects in the brain. Whereas traditional antidepressents can take up to 8 weeks to work, the effects of ketamine are seen within 60 to 90 minutes.

Dr. Monteggia: The idea of trying to understand how you generate a rapid anti-depressant response in patients … it’s really the first time we’ve been able to study it.

Narrator: Her study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions.

Dr. Monteggia: How we think Ketamine triggers an anti-depressant effect, this blocking the NMDA receptor, we think may also be causing the side effects associated with Ketamine. One of the things we’re working on is to try and see if we can identify compounds, slight derivatives perhaps, that may have the beneficial effects of Ketamine, in terms of triggering anti-depressant effects, without the side effects.

Narrator: In the meantime, Joyce remains optimistic for her future and the millions of others trying to defeat depression.

Megan: That’s why I really sought out Ketamine is I really wanted to give back and just have a chance at a semi-normal life.

Read the news release about the research.