McLean Chosen for US Study on Childhood Schizophrenia

December 26, 2001 -- Belmont, MA --  McLean Hospital has been chosen by the National Institute of Mental Health as one of four U.S. research centers to conduct a five-year clinical trial on new treatments for childhood schizophrenia.

The McLean site will receive $1.6 million to study the effectiveness, safety and tolerability of three medications for the treatment of early onset schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders are psychiatric conditions that can cause individuals to hear voices, see things, smell things or feel sensations on one’s skin that no one else can perceive. Other symptoms include thinking unusual thoughts, having difficulty concentrating, being disorganized and not being motivated to do usual activities.

While these disorders generally first present in early adulthood, they affect approximately one out of 5,000 children.

Given the severity of these illnesses in children, it is important to gain a better sense as to whether or not children respond to medications that are typically used in adults and whether the side effects of these medications are different.

"This study is the first to compare these three medication treatments in psychotic children," said Jean Frazier, MD, director of McLean’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Services, and the principal investigator at the McLean site. "This study is also the first to monitor psychiatric treatment in children with schizophrenia over a full year."

In addition to assessing the benefits of the medications, the study will look at the degree of weight gain that occurs in children who are treated with these agents, a problem typically seen in children and adults taking psychiatric drugs. The study will also assess the effect of these medications on a child’s ability to pay attention and learn over the year-long course of treatment.

Frazier and her McLean team will study approximately 42 children over the next five years. Each child will remain in the study for one year. To participate, children must be between the ages of eight and 19 years, have active psychotic symptoms and/or have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other related disorders with ongoing problematic symptoms. The youth should not have had an adequate trial on any of the agents used in this study during this current episode. Those interested in enrolling or obtaining further information should call Joyce Yuan at (617) 855-2880.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Washington will also participate in this study.