Suicide is among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide. Of people who died by suicide, the majority are diagnosed with depression. It is estimated that 25%-60% of people with bipolar depression (BD) will attempt suicide at least once, and 10%-15% will die by suicide. Several treatments, such as lithium, clozapine, electroconvulsive therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, have been shown to be effective in treating suicidality. However, these treatments can be difficult to tolerate or may take months to take effect. Ketamine, a glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist, has been shown to have rapid antisuicidal effect and antidepressant qualities, and is thus a promising intervention to target acute suicidality in patients with BD. However, the biological mechanism underlying its therapeutic action remains poorly understood. Enhancing our understanding of underlying mechanisms of action for ketamine’s effectiveness in reducing suicidality is critical to establishing biological markers of treatment response and developing tailored, personalized interventions for patients with BD.
This is an open-label clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of repeated ketamine infusions to treat acute suicidality. The primary objective is to test the safety and feasibility of ketamine intervention. The secondary objective is to examine ketamine’s potential neurophysiological mechanisms of action by assessing cortical excitation and inhibition to determine potential biomarkers of clinical response. Other objectives are to evaluate the effect of ketamine on acute suicidality and other clinical outcomes, such as depressive symptoms and quality of life, to inform a future larger trial.
This open-label clinical trial aims to test the safety and feasibility of repeated ketamine infusions in patients with BD for suicidality and to assess ketamine’s neurophysiological effects. A sterile form of racemic ketamine hydrochloride will be administered over a 40-minute intravenous infusion 2 times per week on nonconsecutive days for 4 weeks (8 sessions). We will recruit 30 adults (24-65 year olds) over 2 years from an academic psychiatric hospital in Toronto, Canada.
This study is currently ongoing and actively recruiting participants. So far, 5 participants have completed the trial, 1 is currently in active treatment, and 8 participants are on the waitlist to be screened. We anticipate initial results being available in the fall of 2023. This proposal was presented as a poster presentation at the Research to Reality Global Summit on Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Medicine, held in May 2022 in Toronto, Canada.
Developing effective interventions for acute suicidality in high-risk populations such as those with BD remains a major therapeutic challenge. Ketamine is a promising treatment due to its rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects, but its underlying neurophysiological mechanisms of action remain unknown.