Australian researchers are to trial raloxifene, now used in osteoporosis and cancer, for schizophrenia treatment.
The three-year clinical drug trial follows the discovery that in schizophrenics a brain receptor that normally stimulates growth in adolescence is disabled.
Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert, who holds Australia's first Chair of Schizophrenia Research, said, "We now know that this brain receptor doesn't work in the normal way for people with schizophrenia.
"With this drug trial, we can begin to stimulate it and try and get the neurodevelopmental program back on track.
For some patients we could see improvements in language and memory," says Professor Shannon Weickert.
Her position is a joint initiative of UNSW, the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute and the Schizophrenia Research Institute.
Her team's findings are published in Human Molecular Genetics
Researchers are recruiting 80 male and female patients with schizophrenia who will receive the new therapy in addition to their ongoing medication. The aim of the new trial is to learn how raloxifene can influence thought processing in schizophrenia and determine whether it could be used as a novel therapeutic treatment for cognitive problems in patients.
Raloxifene is a hormonal modulator that stimulates the oestrogen receptor in the brain. It does not simulate the oestrogen receptor in other parts of the body.
Raloxifene (brand name: Evista) is a drug that helps prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Bone loss is common in postmenopausal women. Raloxifene works like the hormone estrogen to slow this bone loss and can even help increase normal bone growth.
Estrogen can cause side effects like vaginal bleeding and breast tenderness. It can also increase the risk of breast or uterine cancer. Raloxifene doesn't have these same side effects. In addition, raloxifene also lowers total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol) but won't raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (also known as "good" cholesterol). Raloxifene is being tested to see if it lowers the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.