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Improving health outcomes for people with schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting 20 million people worldwide, including approximately 150,000 – 200,000 Australians. The disorder is characterised by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour and consequently results in considerable disability for people who live with the condition.

Thirty percent of people with schizophrenia are treatment-refractory, which means they do not respond to the usual first-line treatments and experience ongoing psychotic symptoms and progressive deterioration in their ability to function. Clozapine is currently the only antipsychotic drug licensed for treatment-refractory schizophrenia, however, it causes significant weight gain in most patients. This weight gain contributes to early death in people with schizophrenia, who die on average, over 16 years earlier than the general population due to avertable cardio-metabolic disease, rather than suicide.

As a clinical psychiatrist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Professor Dan Siskind works with patients who have treatment-refractory schizophrenia. He has experienced first-hand how distressed his patients become by the side-effect of weight gain. This weight gain is very hard to live with for patients, as it negatively impacts their cardiovascular health, and also reduces their quality of life, willingness to engage socially, self-esteem, and desire to continue with treatment.

Dan has responded to the needs of his patients by establishing the Physical and Mental Health Stream at QCMHR.

Research focus

Research conducted under this stream aims to improve the mental health and physical comorbidity outcomes of people living with schizophrenia, with a focus on two key areas:

  1. Physical health comorbidity
  2. Treatment refractory schizophrenia

Ultimately, by uncovering new knowledge about the physical and mental health of people with schizophrenia, Dan and his team hope to empower people with schizophrenia to live longer and healthier lives.

Projects

Bridging the life expectancy gap: A multidisciplinary research program to reduce physical co morbidity in people living with schizophrenia
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Clozapine Obesity and Semaglutide Treatment (COaST).
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Impact of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program on colorectal cancer outcomes for people over the age of 50 with severe mental illness
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Cannabidiol (CBD) for clozapine refractory schizophrenia (CanCloz)
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Using microbiome associated inflammatory biomarkers to predict and enhance treatment response among people with schizophrenia
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Rates of Treatment Resistant Schizophrenia from First Episode Cohorts
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Staff

For complete staff bios and contact details, visit: Physical and Mental Health Stream Staff

Professor Dan Siskind, Stream Leader
Professor Steve Kisely
Associate Professor Shuichi Suetani
Dr Nicola Warren
Dr Urska Arnautovska Helsby

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