Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence at UBC Hospital - New centre promises better treatments for depression bipolar disorder ......

May 25, 2004

New Centre Promises Better Treatments for Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Imagine suffering frequent, extreme and disabling mood swings that won't go away despite years of different treatments and diagnoses.

This is a common scenario for people with bipolar disorder, one of the illnesses that will be studied and treated at the new Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence at UBC Hospital, part of the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI).

"The 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. "Coordinating 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 -- the best integrated clinical research programs of their kind in Canada -- 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 to VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation from BC 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.

"Credit Unions have a strong history of community involvement and forward-looking giving. As we began to truly understand the devastation of the disease of depression, we felt we had to become involved," says Wayne Nygren, BC Credit Union president and CEO. "It is our hope and desire that the leading-edge research that will be conducted at the Centre will offer enhanced treatments for individuals and families coping with depression."

A key element of the Bipolar Disorder Program is an early mania treatment program that is the most comprehensive in the world. Called Systematic Treatment Optimization Program in Early Mania (STOP-EM), it is made possible through unrestricted funding of $1.5 million from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Canada Inc.

"STOP-EM is an innovative program that will help persons with bipolar disorder cope with their condition early on," says Karen Burke, vice-president, medical affairs, AstraZeneca Canada Inc. "We're proud to be involved in an initiative that will be so beneficial to patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals."

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 testing.

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 company was ranked as one of the top 50 employers in Canada by The Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine.

The BC 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. In 2002, BC credit unions poured $10.9 million into local communities through charitable contributions.

VCHRI is a joint venture between UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health that promotes development of new researchers and research activity.

The VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation is a registered charity that raises funds for equipment, patient care programs, and medical research for VGH and UBC Hospital. The Foundation seeks to build partnerships with community organizations, corporations and people who share a commitment to quality health care in B.C. Donation enquiries can be directed to 604-875-4676.

NB Editors: Patients with bipolar disorder and depression are available to speak with media.

Contact: Lisa Carver   Communications, VCHRI   Tel: 604-875-4111 x 61777   or 604-319-7533   Backgrounder

The Mood Disorders Centre at UBC Hospital improves treatment for people with mood disorders through innovative research, education, and clinical care.

The Mood Disorder Centre at UBC Hospital is born from the existing Mood Disorder clinic. An injection of over 4.5 million in research dollars has allowed programming to move from a clinical (treatment) base to a full-fledged research centre that integrates cutting-edge research with treatment, resulting in innovative clinical programs and creative educational initiatives.

The centre, directed by Dr. Raymond Lam, has two major programming areas: The BC Credit Union Centre for Excellence in Depression Research and Care and the Bipolar Disorder Program.

The BC Credit Union Centre of Excellence in Depression Research and Care
The depression programs include both in-patient and out-patient components and comprise the SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) program; the ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy); and Re-CHORD (Relief of Chronic or Resistant Depression), a unique multidimensional program that provides concurrent treatment through medication, psychotherapy, and occupational therapy. Major accomplishments in the past year include the development of BC Guidelines for Depression in Primary Care and for ECT Care, and the support of $3 million (1.6 from the BC Credit Unions and 2.4 raised by the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation) toward an endowment chair in Depression Research.

Bipolar Disorder Program
The Bipolar program is lead by Dr. Lakshimi Yatham, a world leader in the field of bipolar research and treatment. The clinical program has both in-patient and out-patient components, where patients will receive multidisciplinary care. Research programs include Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Studies; the Canadian Consortium on Bipolar Disorder (a first of its kind consortium which brings together recognized experts to further bipolar research and treatment) and the STOP -- EM program (Systemic Treatment Optimization Program -- Early Mania). It is the first of its kind in bipolar research to collect both neuropyschological and neuroimaging data to identify possible deterioration or recovery. The program's objectives are to facilitate early diagnosis and to provide and facilitate optimal treatment. The STOP -- EM program is made possible through the support of $1.5 million from AstraZeneca Canada.


Depression Nearly four million Canadians (500,000 British Columbians) will suffer emotional distress, relationship problems, and functional impairment due to depression. Depression is one of the most common and debilitating illnesses in Canada. Clinical depression is 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. Depression is a leading cause of disability from work. It results in an estimated $1.5 billion dollars of lost productivity each year and is now the 2nd leading cause of long-term worker disability in Canada. Depression is associated with increased mortality due to other medical causes such as cardiovascular disease and premature cardiac death. Every day, one person in BC dies by suicide. Most are clinically depressed at the time (About 15 per cent of people with severe depression commit suicide.) Four out of five people with depression can be successfully treated within weeks.

Bipolar Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive illness, is a severe mood disorder that affects about one million Canadians. Bipolar is a brain disorder. It typically develops in adolescence or early adulthood. It is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide among 15-44-year-olds, affecting up to 4 per cent of adults. 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. Patients with bipolar disorder are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or under-treated and suffer for an average of 10 years with symptoms before receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment. This delay has been shown to adversely affect patient treatment and recovery.


Dr. Raymond Lam
Dr. Raymond W. Lam is Professor and Head of the Division of Clinical Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, and Director of the Mood Disorders Centre at UBC Hospital in Vancouver. His research examines clinical and neurobiological factors in seasonal, atypical and difficult-to-treat depression, biological effects of light, clinical psychopharmacology, clinical guidelines and treatment programs for depression. This work has been supported by many agencies including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, and by industry research grants. He has published over 200 scientific articles and book chapters, and edited three books on depression. He also sits on the Editorial Boards of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and Chronobiology International, and reviews for numerous journals and funding agencies. Dr. Lam has received many awards for his research and teaching, including the Scientific Achievement Award (Vancouver Coastal Health, 2003), the Douglas Utting Prize and Medal for Depression Research (SMBD-JGH/McGill University, 2001), the Clinical Investigator Award (UBC Brain Research Centre, 1999), the Nancy Roeske Award for Excellence in Medical Student Education (American Psychiatric Association, 1998), and the Special Recognition Award (Canadian Mental Health Association, 1999).

Dr. Lakshmi N. Yatham
Dr. Lakshmi N. Yatham, MBBS, FRCPC, MRCPsych (UK), is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Mood Disorders Clinical Research Unit at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His major areas of research interest include neurobiology and treatment of bipolar disorder and major depression. Dr. Yatham is a recipient of the Michael Smith Foundation Senior Scholar Award, and his work has been funded by a number of peer-reviewed funding agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, Stanley Foundation, and National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, USA. Dr. Yatham leads a Canadian consortium on bipolar disorder, which is currently pursuing development and testing of new and innovative treatments for bipolar disorder under his direction with substantial funding from CIHR. Dr. Yatham co-led the development of Canadian guidelines for treatment of bipolar disorder in 1997 and his group is currently in the process of revising the guidelines for 2004. He is Chair of the bipolar group of the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT), and is actively involved at a national and international level in continuing medical education and public education on diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder for psychiatrists, family physicians, and the general public. Dr. Yatham is the Vice-President for the International Society for Bipolar Disorders and he is on the editorial boards of a number of journals including Bipolar Disorders, Brain Pharmacology, and Human Psychopharmacology. He has published over 100 papers in peer-reviewed international journals and presented his research work at numerous international conferences.

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