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Major new study to look at who is at risk of developing schizophrenia

The early intervention mental health service from Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) is set to lead a major global study into the causes and impact of schizophrenia on high risk young adults to try to discover early treatments.
The CAMEO service helps and supports people aged between 14 and 35 who are experiencing symptoms of psychosis for the first time (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The CAMEO service, which helps and supports people aged 14-35 years old who are experiencing symptoms of psychosis for the first time, will be the UK partner in an international consortium. This global study has been awarded one of the largest ever grants for research into psychosis and serious mental illness; the National Institutes of Health in the United States has provided $52 million of funding for the project.

A successful bid from CAMEO, one of 26 worldwide centres of excellence in the early intervention mental health field, means it will directly receive $1.3 million to conduct research. Investigators around the world are looking to recruit over 1,000 people who are at high risk of developing psychosis. These people will be studied in-depth over two years, with assessments of brain structure and function, psychopathology and cognition, genetics, behaviour and speech and language.

Professor Jesus Perez, lead consultant psychiatrist for CPFT’s CAMEO service, worked with Professor Scott Woods at lead institution Yale University and other world-renowned organisations on the winning bid to develop a global Psychosis Risk Outcomes Network (ProNET).

Partner institutions from America to Australia will work together to discover biological markers that can help identify those at risk of developing schizophrenia as early as possible. ProNET will also test whether data-driven variation in these biomarkers can be used to forecast clinical trajectories and select specific treatments for individual patients.

Professor Perez said: "Clinical high risk for psychosis has become increasingly recognised as a public health problem affecting adolescents and young adults. The development of treatments has been limited by substantial variations in how the condition presents in patients initially, and over time.

"ProNET is one of the most ambitious research projects in psychosis globally. It should help prepare the field to develop new treatments that are tailor-made for people at clinical high risk for psychosis. I am really pleased that CAMEO has been chosen as one of the few centres outside the US to take part in this remarkable scientific endeavour."

National Institutes of Health director Francis Colins said: "We know that with most brain diseases, early interventions before the onset of symptoms improve long term outcomes. Through research we’ve identified clinical and biological markers for schizophrenia, but we need to translate this knowledge into early interventions to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people at risk of this debilitating disease."