Identification of a Serotonin 2A Receptor Subtype of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders With Pimavanserin: The Sub-Sero Proof-of-Concept Trial Protocol

Front Pharmacol. 2020 Apr 30;11:591. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.00591. eCollection 2020.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: All current approved antipsychotic drugs against schizophrenia spectrum disorders share affinity for the dopamine receptor (D2R). However, up to one-third of these patients respond insufficiently, and in some cases, side-effects outweigh symptom reduction. Previous data have suggested that a subgroup of antipsychotic-naïve patients will respond to serotonin 2A receptor (2AR) blockade.

AIMS: This investigator-initiated, translational, proof-of-concept study has overall two aims; 1) To test the clinical effectiveness of monotherapy with the newly approved drug against Parkinson’s disease psychosis, pimavanserin, in antipsychotic-free patients with first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorders; 2) To characterize the neurobiological profile of responders to pimavaserin.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT: Forty patients will be enrolled in this 6-week open label, one-armed trial with the selective serotonin 2AR antagonist (pimavanserin 34 mg/day). At baseline, patients will undergo: positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the serotonin 2AR using the radioligand [¹¹C]Cimbi-36; structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); MR spectroscopy of cerebral glutamate levels and diffusion tensor imaging; cognitive and psychopathological examinations; electrocardiogram, and blood sampling for genetic- and metabolic analyses.

OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary clinical endpoint will be reduction in the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) positive score. Secondary clinical endpoints comprise multiple clinical ratings (positive and negative symptoms, depressive-, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, quality of life, social functioning, sexual functioning, and side-effects). PET, MRI, and cognitive parameters will be used for in-depth neuropsychiatric characterization of pimavanserin response.

ANTICIPATED RESULTS: Clinically, we expect pimavanserin to reduce psychotic symptoms with similar effect as observed with conventional antipsychotics, for which we have comparable historical data. We expect pimavanserin to induce minimal side-effects. Neurobiologically, we expect psychotic symptom reduction to be most prominent in patients with low frontal serotonin 2AR binding potential at baseline. Potential pro-cognitive and brain structural effects of pimavanserin will be explored.

PERSPECTIVES: Sub-Sero will provide unique information about the role serotonin 2AR in antipsychotic-free, first-episode psychosis. If successful, Sub-Sero will aid identification of a “serotonergic subtype” of schizophrenia spectrum patients, thereby promoting development of precision medicine in clinical psychiatry.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials, identifier NCT03994965.

PMID:32425802 | PMC:PMC7204912 | DOI:10.3389/fphar.2020.00591

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