Institute for Response-Genetics (e.V.)

Prof. Dr. Hans H. Stassen, Chairman

(Formerly Associated Institute of the University of Zurich)

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Predicting Onset of Improvement under Antidepressants and Antipsychotics

Individual-Case Approach

Using the "individual-case" approach, we have investigated the time course of improvement under antidepressants in a sample of 2,788 MDD patients treated with 7 different types of antidepressants or placebo to address the question of the extent to which the various active compounds possess a faster or slower onset of action, compared to placebo. Among patients who met the improvement/response criteria, the distribution of the individual onsets was approximately normal (slightly left-skewed), covering a wide range from early to late response with mean values around day 12-14 (improvement) and day 18-20 (response). Unexpectedly, there were almost no differences between treatment modalities in this respect, with differences between active compounds, or between active compounds and placebo, being reflected only by the total number of improvers and responders.

Biological Predisposition

Our results suggested that patients are likely to possess a biological predisposition that controls the time characteristics of recovery but not the response to a particular treatment, as demonstrated in our study for 7 pharmacologically different antidepressants. Response to currently available psychotropic drug treatment appeared to be to a substantial part determined by a nonspecific, resilience-related component, which is ethnicity-independent and also largely independent of diagnostic entities, since psychotropic drugs seem to be "polyvalent" in the sense that they induce a therapeutic response under various clinical indications. For example, antidepressants are also effective in anxiety disorders and neuroleptics are successfully used in the treatment of bipolar illness.

Molecular-Genetic Discrimination Between Early-, Late-, and Non-Improvers

In a molecular-genetic pilot study of 257 patients genotyped for 120 candidate genes, we searched for configurations of genes that modify the time characteristics of psychotropic drug response. Using the genotype patterns of 105 patients as learning samples, we found a 23-locus configuration significantly correlated with onset of improvement, thus enabling discrimination between "early", "late", and "non"-improvers at classification rates exceeding 75%. Applied to the independent replication sample of 152 patients, the same configuration of loci yielded 85.4% correctly classified "early" and 65.9% "late" improvers. In consequence, response to psychotropic drug treatment appears substantially determined by an unspecific resilience-related component, which is independent of treatment modality and can be triggered by various exogenous and endogenous factors. By contrast, a much smaller, ethnicity-specific "pharmaco-genetic" component apparently causes the inter-individual variation in dose, blood-level, weight gain, and other side effects.


Stassen HH, Bachmann S, Bridler R, Cattapan K, Herzig D, Schneeberger A, Seifritz E: Detailing the Effects of Polypharmacy in Psychiatry: Longitudinal Study of 320 Patients Hospitalized for Depression or Schizophrenia. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2021 [submitted for publication]
Stassen HH, Bachmann S, Bridler R, Cattapan K, Herzig D, Schneeberger A, Seifritz E: Inflammatory Processes linked to Major Depression & Schizophrenic Disorders and the Effects of Polypharmacy in Psychiatry: Evidence from a longitudinal Study of 279 Patients under Therapy. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2021; 271(3): 507-520 [get the article]
Pollak TA, Lennox B, Müller S, Benros ME, Prüss H, Tebartz van Elst L, Klein H, Steiner J, Frodl T, Bogerts B, Tian L, Groc L, Hasan A, Baune BT, Endres D, Haroon E, Yolken R, Benedetti F, Halaris A, Meyer J, Stassen HH, Leboyer M, Fuchs D, Otto M, Brown DA, Vincent A, Najjar S, Bechter K: An international consensus on an approach to the diagnosis and management of psychosis of suspected autoimmune origin: the concept of autoimmune psychosis. Lancet Psychiatry 2020; 7(1): 93-108
Zhang M, Bridler R, Mohr C, Moragrega I, Sun N, Xu Z, Yang Z, Possenti M, Stassen HH: Early Detection of the Risk of Developing Psychiatric Disorders: A Study of 461 Chinese University Students under Chronic Stress. Psychopathology 2019; 52(6): 367-377 [get the article]
Bhake R, Kluckner V, Stassen HH, Russell GM, Leendertz J, Stevens K, Linthorst ACE, Lightman S: Continuous Free Cortisol Profiles – Circadian Rhythms in Healthy Men. J Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2019; 104(12): 5935-5947
Stassen HH: Heterogeneity of schizophrenic disorders and link to chronically elevated IgM values. Neurology, psychiatry and brain research 2018; 29: 23-24
Braun S, Bridler R, Müller N, Schwarz MJ, Seifritz E, Weisbrod M, Zgraggen A, Stassen HH: Inflammatory Processes and Schizophrenia: Two Independent Lines of Evidence from a Study of Twins Discordant and Concordant for Schizophrenic Disorders. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2017; 267: 377-389
Stassen HH, Delfino JP, Kluckner VJ, Lott P, Mohr C: Vulnerabilität und psychische Erkrankung. Swiss Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 2014; 165(5): 152-157
Drago A, Giegling I, Schäfer M, Hartmann AM, Friedl M, Konte B, Möller HJ, De Ronchi D, Stassen HH, Serretti A, Rujescu D: AKAP13, CACNA1, GRIK4 and GRIA1 genetic variations may be associated with haloperidol efficacy during acute treatment. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013; 23(8): 887-894
Giegling I, Balzarro B, Porcelli S, Schäfer M, Hartmann AM, Friedl M, Konte B, Krämer P, Möller HJ, De Ronchi D, Stassen HH, Serretti A, Rujescu D: Influence of ANKK1 and DRD2 polymorphisms in response to haloperidol. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2013; 263(1): 65-74
Drago A, Giegling I, Schäfer M, Hartmann AM, Möller HJ, De Ronchi D, Stassen HH, Serretti A, Rujescu D: No association of a set of candidate genes on haloperidol side effects. PLoS One. 2012; 7(10): e44853
Giegling I, Drago A, Schäfer M, Hartmann AM, Sander T, Toliat MR, Möller HJ, De Ronchi D, Stassen HH, Rujescu D, Serretti A: Lack of association between 71 variations located in candidate genes and response to acute haloperidol treatment. Psychopharmacology 2011; 214(3): 719-728
Giegling I, Drago A, Dolzan V, Plesnicar BK, Schäfer M, Hartmann AM, Sander T, Toliat MR, Möller HJ, Stassen HH, Rujescu D, Serretti A: Glutamatergic gene variants impact the clinical profile of efficacy and side effects of haloperidol. Pharmacogenet Genomics. 2011; 21(4): 206-216
Gravemann S, Schnipper N, Meyer H, Vaya A, Nowaczyk MJM, Rajab A, Hofmann WK, Salewsky B, Tönnies H, Neitzel H, Stassen HH, Sperling K, Hoffmann K: Dosage effect of zero to three functional LBR-genes in vivo and in vitro. Nucleus 2010; 1(2): 1-12
Hoffmann K, Planitz C, Rüschendorf F, Müller-Myhsok B, Stassen HH, Lucke B, Mattheisen M, Stumvoll M, Bochmann R, Zschornack G, Wienker TF, Nürnberg P, Reis A, Luft FC, Lindner TH: A novel locus for arterial hypertension on chromosome 1p36 maps to a metabolic syndrome trait cluster in the Sorbs, a Slavic population isolate in Germany. J Hypertens 2009; 27: 983-990
Stassen HH, Hoffmann K, Scharfetter C: The Difficulties of Reproducing Conventionally Derived Results through 500k-Chip Technology. BMC Genet Proc. 2009; 3 Suppl 7: S66
Tadic A, Rujescu D, Dahmen N, Stassen HH, Muller MJ, Kohnen R, Szegedi A: Association Analysis between Variants of the Interleukin-1? and the Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Gene and Antidepressant Treatment Response in Major Depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat 2008; 4(1): 269-276
Stassen HH, Angst J, Hell D, Scharfetter C, Szegedi A: Is there a common resilience mechanism underlying antidepressant drug response? Evidence from 2'848 patients. J Clin Psychiatry 2007; 68(8): 1195-1205
Tadic A, Rujescu D, Müller MJ, Kohnen R, Stassen HH, Dahmen N, Szegedi A: A monoamine oxidase B gene variant and short-term antidepressant treatment response. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2007; 31(7): 1370-1377
Tadic A, Müller MJ, Rujescu D, Kohnen R, Stassen HH, Dahmen N, Szegedi A: The MAOA T941G polymorphism and short-term treatment response to mirtazapine and paroxetine in major depression. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2007; 144(3): 325-331
Stassen HH, Szegedi A, Scharfetter C: Modeling Activation of Inflammatory Response System. A Molecular-Genetic Neural Network Analysis. BMC Proceedings 2007, 1 (Suppl 1): S61, 1-6
Berger M, Stassen HH, Köhler K, Krane V, Mönks D, Wanner C, Hoffmann K, Hoffmann MM, Zimmer M, Bickeböller H, Lindner TH: Hidden population substructures in an apparently homogeneous population bias association studies. Eur J Hum Genetics 2006; 14: 236-244
Stassen HH, Angst J, Scharfetter C, Szegedi A: Therapie mit Antidepressiva: Erfolg von genetischen Faktoren abhängig? Leading Opinions, Neurologie & Psychiatrie 2005; 6: 25-27
Szegedi A, Rujescu D, Tadic A, Müller MJ, Ralf Kohnen R, Stassen HH, Dahmen N: The catechol-O-methyltransferase Val108/158Met-polymorphism affects short-term treatment response to mirtazapine, but not to paroxetine in Major Depression. Pharmacogenomics 2005; 5(1): 49-53
Stassen HH, Bridler R, Hell D, Weisbrod M, Scharfetter C: Ethnicity-independent genetic basis of functional psychoses. A Genotype-to-phenotype approach. Am J Med Genetics B 2004; 124: 101-112
Stassen HH, Hoffmann K, Scharfetter C: Similarity by state/descent and genetic vector spaces: Analysis of a longitudinal family study. Genetic Analysis Workshop 13: Analysis of longitudinal family data for complex diseases and related risk factors. BMC Genet 2003; 4, S59: 1-6
Stassen HH, Scharfetter C: Oligogenic approaches to the predisposition of asthma in ethnically diverse populations. Genetic Analysis Workshop 12: Analysis of genetic and environmental factors in common diseases. Genetic Epidemiology 2001; 21(1): 284-289
Hoffmann K, Stassen HH, Reis A: Genkartierung in Isolatpopulationen. Medizinische Genetik 2000; 12,4: 428-437
Stassen HH, Bridler R, Hägele S, Hergersberg M, Mehmann B, Schinzel A, Weisbrod M, Scharfetter C: Schizophrenia and smoking: evidence for a common neurobiological basis? Am J Med Genetics B 2000; 96: 173-177
Stassen HH and Scharfetter C: Integration of genetic maps by polynomial transformations. Am J Med Genetics B 2000; 96: 108-113
Stassen HH, Begleiter H, Porjesz B, Rice J, Scharfetter C, Reich T: Structural decomposition of genetic diversity in families with alcohol dependence. Genetic Analysis Workshop 11: Analysis of genetic and environmental factors in common diseases. Genetic Epidemiology 1999; 17: 325-330


Predicting Onset of Improvement under Antidepressants
Genetic vector space spanned by 23 polymorphisms within candidate genes revealed clear differences on the genotype level between response groups under psychotropic drugs: circles designate non-improvers (n=53), triangles early improvers (n=123), and squares late improvers (n=81). The 257 patients were projected onto the hyperplane through the eigenvectors associated with the 2 largest eigenvalues.
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