In Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), treatment outcomes with currently available strategies are often disappointing. Therefore, it is sensible to develop new strategies to increase remission rates in acutely depressed patients. Many studies reported that true drug response can be observed within 14 days (early improvement) of antidepressant treatment. The identical time course of symptom amelioration after early improvement in patients treated with antidepressants of all classes or with placebo strongly suggests a common biological mechanism, which is not specific for a particular antidepressant medication. However, the biology underlying early improvement and final treatment response is not understood and there is no established biological marker as yet, which can predict treatment response for the individual patient before initiation or during the course of antidepressant treatment. Peripheral blood markers and executive functions are particularly promising candidates as markers for the onset of action and thus the prediction of final treatment outcome in MDD.
The present paper presents the rationales, objectives and methods of a multi-centre study applying close-meshed repetitive measurements of peripheral blood and neuropsychological parameters in patients with MDD and healthy controls during a study period of eight weeks for the identification of biomarkers for the onset of antidepressants' action in patients with MDD. Peripheral blood parameters and depression severity are assessed in weekly intervals from baseline to week 8, executive performance in bi-weekly intervals. Patients are participating in a randomized controlled multi-level clinical trial, healthy controls are matched according to mean age, sex and general intelligence.
This investigation will help to identify a biomarker or a set of biomarkers with decision-making quality in the treatment of MDD in order to increase the currently disappointing remission rates of antidepressant treatment.