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Protocol for the Psychosis Immune Mechanism Stratified Medicine (PIMS) trial: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of single-dose tocilizumab in patients with psychosis.

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Griffiths, Sian Lowri 
Murray, Alexander 
Rogers, Jack 
Corsi-Zuelli, Fabiana 


INTRODUCTION: Evidence suggests a potentially causal role of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a pleiotropic cytokine that generally promotes inflammation, in the pathogenesis of psychosis. However, no interventional studies in patients with psychosis, stratified using inflammatory markers, have been conducted to assess the therapeutic potential of targeting IL-6 in psychosis and to elucidate potential mechanism of effect. Tocilizumab is a humanised monoclonal antibody targeting the IL-6 receptor to inhibit IL-6 signalling, licensed in the UK for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The primary objective of this study is to test whether IL-6 contributes to the pathogenesis of first episode psychosis and to examine potential mechanisms by which IL-6 affects psychotic symptoms. A secondary objective is to examine characteristics of inflammation-associated psychosis. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: A proof-of-concept study employing a randomised, parallel-group, double-blind, placebo-controlled design testing the effect of IL-6 inhibition on anhedonia in patients with psychosis. Approximately 60 participants with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders (ICD-10 codes F20, F22, F25, F28, F29) with evidence of low-grade inflammation (IL-6≥0.7 pg/mL) will receive either one intravenous infusion of tocilizumab (4.0 mg/kg; max 800 mg) or normal saline. Psychiatric measures and blood samples will be collected at baseline, 7, 14 and 28 days post infusion. Cognitive and neuroimaging data will be collected at baseline and 14 days post infusion. In addition, approximately 30 patients with psychosis without evidence of inflammation (IL-6<0.7 pg/mL) and 30 matched healthy controls will be recruited to complete identical baseline assessments to allow for comparison of the characteristic features of inflammation-associated psychosis. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The study is sponsored by the University of Bristol and has been approved by the Cambridge East Research Ethics Committee (reference: 22/EE/0010; IRAS project ID: 301682). Study findings will be published in peer-review journals. Findings will also be disseminated by scientific presentation and other means. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN23256704.


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: National Institute of Health Research Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre


Clinical trials, IMMUNOLOGY, Magnetic resonance imaging, Schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, Humans, Double-Blind Method, Inflammation, Interleukin-6, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment Outcome, Proof of Concept Study

Journal Title

BMJ Open

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Wellcome Trust (201486/Z/16/Z)
Medical Research Council (MR/S037675/1)
National Institute for Health and Care Research (IS-BRC-1215-20014)
Medical Research Council (MR/R006008/1)