21. December 2022 | Press releases:

With individualised medicine against depression TU Braunschweig involved in largest German study to improve depression treatment

Currently, some people suffering from depression cannot be helped with standard therapies. Therefore, a national project is investigating how the treatment of depression can be tailored more closely to individual patients.

Using biomarkers to find individualised diagnosis and therapy paths – what already works in oncology should also become possible in psychiatry. The project entitled “Personalisierte, prädiktive, präzise und präventive Medizin zur Verbesserung der Früherkennung, Diagnostik, Therapie und Prävention depressiver Erkrankungen“ (P4D) (Personalised, Predictive, Precise and Preventive Medicine to Improve Early Detection, Diagnosis, Therapy and Prevention of Depressive Disorders) aims to develop individualised treatment approaches with the help of biomarkers, but also magnetic resonance imaging, brain wave measurements and sleep diagnostics.

Up to now, patients with depression have all been treated according to the same scheme. Although psychotherapy and/or antidepressants lead to a considerable improvement in depression in many patients, these treatment methods are not effective or not sufficiently effective for some of those affected. This is due to the fact that different brain dysfunctions are hidden behind the clinical picture on a neurobiological level. For this reason, research is working to identify these and to develop individualised diagnosis and treatment methods for patients.

Instead of trying out different treatment methods, as has been the case up to now, it should be possible in future to determine the best therapy for the patient at the beginning of the depression treatment. In this way, more people with depression can be treated more effectively. On the other hand, those involved in the project also expect a faster improvement in the quality of life for the patients and hope to be able to avoid a chronification of the depression. “To this end, we will not only develop new risk scores, but also integrate and evaluate the molecular data using systems medicine. In this way, we expect to identify molecular mechanisms that can explain the different therapy response behaviour,” Professor Tim Kacprowski describes the sub-project of TU Braunschweig, which will start in September 2024.

About the study

The study, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 10 million euros over five years, involves seven universities (Hannover Medical School, Leibniz University Hannover, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Greifswald University Medicine, Würzburg University Clinic, Kiel University and Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine, the Stiftung Deutsche Depressionshilfe (German Depression Aid Foundation) and the Bavarian company BioVariance.

Around 1,000 patients are recruited for P4D. The study is characterised by the fact that the test persons are examined comprehensively and very different parameters are recorded. In addition to magnetic resonance imaging, electroencephalography and sleep analyses, physical examinations, various questionnaires and blood samples are also evaluated. By collecting as much information as possible about the patient, this can be used to tailor the therapy individually to the person concerned.