There is no added benefit to using ketamine over a standard anaesthetic during electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

The study, which was published

recently in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that patients receiving ECT received no additional benefit if they were anaesthetised using ketamine as opposed to the more commonly used anaesthetic, propofol.

The trial compared the use of ketamine as an anaesthetic during ECT against a more commonly used anaesthetic to see if it improves the symptoms of depression sooner.

Ketamine is increasingly being used as a possible treatment for depression and recently there has been interest in its use in combination with ECT.

In the study, patients already being treated for depression and referred for ECT were anaesthetised with


Now, the scientists are to undertake a new UK-wide study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, which will look at how airway cells at birth are linked to asthma symptoms in the preschool years in a bid to identify what factors ‘activate’ asthma in those already predisposed to the condition.

Researchers will follow more than a thousand babies until they’re of school age to try to find out what factors cause the condition to develop.

Around 1,000 mothers from five centres in the UK are being asked to get involved, including 200 in Aberdeen, whether they have asthma or not.

Experts at the University of Aberdeen have already shown an apparent link between the diet of pregnant mothers and the likelihood of their children developing asthma, and have previously found that a mother’s diet whilst pregnant is linked to how the cells that line babies’ airways work (the airway cells). They have also shown that the airway cells are linked to asthma symptoms in young children.

The team believe something happens pre-birth which predisposes newborn babies to have airway cells that respond poorly and the focus of the study will be to identify what factor or factors contribute to the development of asthma in these children.

The study will see cells swabbed from 1,000 new-born babies and will be carried out in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London. Follow- ups will be carried out with the same children up until they reach four years old.

either ketamine or the traditional anaesthetic, propofol, but no additional benefit was found in those given ketamine.

Specifically, ketamine provided no advantage for reducing depression severity, number of subsequent ECT treatments required or in preserving cognitive performance.

‘Electroconvulsive therapy is a highly effective treatment for severe depression,’ said Dr Gordon Fernie

who worked on the trial, ‘but factors including side effect profile, the necessity for extended hospital care, and stigma, restrict its use.

‘Accumulating interest in the use of ketamine as an acute treatment for severe depression and as the anaesthetic for ECT suggests that using ketamine could mitigate these factors. However, evidence is equivocal. In this controlled trial, we present results comparing ketamine with propofol anaesthesia for ECT.

‘Now our results add to evidence that suggests ketamine during ECT is no more effective than propofol at alleviating depressive symptoms despite its promise when given in smaller, sub-anaesthetic doses.’


class products in the head and neck cancer pipeline will reach the market over the coming decade, according to business intelligence firm GBI Research.

The company’s latest report has found that there are 112 first-in-class programmes in the head and neck cancer pipeline, acting on 87 distinct first-in-class molecular targets. This accounts for 39.2 per cent of all products with a disclosed molecular target and reflects the high degree of innovation in this indication.

‘Factors driving the pipeline size include the limited efficacy of current treatments for refractory patients,’ says Adam Bradbury, Associate Analyst for GBI Research, ‘and a lack of approved targeted therapies in the market landscape, facilitating the development of novel compounds.

‘These factors have far-reaching strategic implications for all market participants, as it is likely that numerous first-in-class products, many of which are supported by promising preclinical data, will reach the market over the coming decade, potentially transforming the clinical and commercial landscape.

‘Proprietary data shows evidence of a promising number of products in the head and neck cancer pipeline, approximately a third of which are first-in-class targets, across all stages of development. These target a wide range of known cancer-related cellular processes and signaling pathways, through a number of different therapeutic approaches. On the whole, there is no shortage of developmental programs that display both incremental and disruptive innovation, warranting an optimistic outlook for patients, companies and investors alike.

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