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Vol. LXII, No. 2
January 22, 2010
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Digest

  Overall, only about half of Americans diagnosed with major depression in a given year receive treatment for it, and even fewer—about one fifth—receive treatment consistent with current practice guidelines, says an NIMH-supported study.  
  Overall, only about half of Americans diagnosed with major depression in a given year receive treatment for it, and even fewer—about one fifth—receive treatment consistent with current practice guidelines, says an NIMH-supported study.  
Just Over Half of Americans Diagnosed with Major Depression Receive Care

Overall, only about half of Americans diagnosed with major depression in a given year receive treatment for it, and even fewer—about one fifth—receive treatment consistent with current practice guidelines, according to data from nationally representative surveys supported by NIMH. Among the ethnic/racial groups surveyed, African Americans and Mexican Americans had the lowest rates of use of depression care; all groups reported higher use of past-year psychotherapy vs. medication for depression.

Depression is a leading cause of disability in the United States. Past research has found that many people with depression never received treatment and that the percentage of those receiving treatment varies with ethnicity and race. NIMH’s Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys initiative used combined data from three nationally representative studies to reach conclusions published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in January.

A central finding was that overall, 51 percent of all those in the study who met criteria for major depression during the prior year received some kind of treatment for it, with only 21 percent receiving care that was consistent with the American Psychiatric Association guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder.

Small Changes in Protein Chemistry Play Large Role

in Huntington’s Disease In Huntington’s disease, a mutated protein in the body becomes toxic to brain cells. Recent studies have demonstrated that a small region adjacent to the mutated segment plays a major role in the toxicity. Two new studies supported by NIH show that very slight changes to this region can eliminate signs of Huntington’s disease in mice.

Researchers do not fully understand why the protein (called mutant huntingtin) is toxic, but one clue is that it accumulates in ordered clumps of fibrils, perhaps clogging up the cells’ internal machinery.

“These studies shed light on the structure and biochemistry of the mutant huntingtin protein and on potentially modifiable factors that affect its toxicity,” said Dr. Margaret Sutherland, a program director at NINDS. “They reveal sites within the huntingtin protein and within broader disease pathways that could serve as targets for drug therapy.”

Both studies were published in late December, one in the Journal of Cell Biology and the other in Neuron.

Gene Mutations Reveal Potential New Targets For Treating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Researchers have discovered genetic mutations that may contribute to the development of an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These findings provide insight into a mechanism that cancer cells may use to survive, thus identifying potential new targets for treatment of the disease. The study, conducted by researchers at NCI, NIAID and NHGRI and their colleagues, appeared Jan. 7 in Nature.

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) originates in B cells, which are antibody-producing immune cells and one of the body’s key defense mechanisms. DLBCL is the most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and represents about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cases. There are different subtypes of DLBCL that vary biologically and differ significantly in their rates of patient survival following chemotherapy. The activated B cell-like (ABC) subtype is the least responsive to currently available therapies.

When a normal B cell encounters a foreign substance, proteins on the cell surface known as B cell receptors (BCR) activate signaling pathways that tell the cell to survive and proliferate. Previous research had suggested that BCR signaling might contribute to the development of lymphomas; however, direct genetic and functional evidence was lacking.

“Our data provide important evidence that BCR signaling plays a crucial role in ABC DLBCL,” said study senior author Dr. Louis Staudt of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. “As such, this study opens up a wealth of therapeutic opportunities for this type of lymphoma and may eventually lead to clinical trials testing agents that target components of the BCR signaling pathway.”

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