Clinical researchers at in Cambridgeshire are running a major international study as UK partner to improve treatment and prevention of psychotic disorders, one of the most urgent needs in mental health.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust's CAMEO early intervention service specialises in providing mental health care for people with the first signs of psychosis, where thoughts and perceptions may be disrupted to hear or see things that are not real.

This service also conducts groundbreaking research to understand and develop effective treatments for psychosis, bringing the latest studies to patients in their clinics.

One of these studies is the global Psychosis Risk Outcomes Network (ProNET) project which CAMEO was chosen to partner as a centre of excellence in the UK, among 26 sites worldwide.

Together with psychiatry and psychology experts from Cambridge University, they are collaborating with the US National Institutes of Health and international organisations to better understand, treat, and prevent psychosis, which disproportionately impacts young people with initial symptoms that can worsen.

Research has demonstrated that early identification and treatment of psychosis improves health outcomes, reduces suicidal risk and symptom severity, and improves long-term quality of life.

Dr Liliana Galindo (third in row), Medical Leader in Psychosis and lead consultant psychiatrist for CPFT’s CAMEO service is coordinating the ProNET study locally, working with UK lead investigator Professor Jesus Perez (seventh in row), psychiatrist and mental health researcher who previously led CAMEO.

Liliana said: “It’s exciting to be opening this research in CAMEO’s 20th anniversary year, for local people to join and be part of a global endeavour to improve understanding of who is most at risk of developing psychosis, and how best to deliver individualised support and treatment to stop it progressing.

“This project builds on our legacy of research with care, and we are proud to forge one of the most significant international mental health partnerships to address serious mental illness.

“We would like to thank everyone at CPFT who has made it possible to deliver this research and contribute as a major partner. We are very grateful to the healthcare staff supporting the study and people choosing to take part.”

Criteria for assessing clinical high risk for psychosis were first formulated two decades ago to help prevent psychotic disorders from developing.

However, there is considerable variation in how patients experience and present these high risk symptoms, so they may not always be identified or treated as early as possible. 

For most, the symptoms may decrease or disappear over a few months or years, but they can become more severe over time and progress into psychosis.

To increase knowledge about these symptoms, causes, risk factors and how they change over time, the ProNET research project will collect various data from interviews, questionnaires, cognitive tasks, MRI and EEG brain scans, as well as samples of blood, saliva, and DNA.

Researchers will use this data to track and predict possible outcomes for individuals and help to tailor personalised treatment plans for recovery and prevention of serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia.

UK co-chief investigator for the study Professor Jesus Perez worked with Yale University on the project bid, winning one of the largest ever research grants for psychosis and serious mental illness to set up ProNET.

Jesus said: “This is one of the most ambitious global mental health research projects, building on decades of scientific investigation to make an immense contribution to the field and future care practice.

“If we can predict the health outcomes of individuals at clinical high risk and develop new treatments, we can intervene to alter the course of the illness and halt the transition to psychosis.

“Services like CAMEO are crucial to gain the insights needed and translate the findings to benefit NHS patients, and I am pleased that CPFT is moving forward with this major study.”

Most eligible participants will be referred directly to the ProNET research team through CPFT’s CAMEO service and other mental health teams. If you would like to join or support this research please contact the team at:

Opportunities to take part in mental health research are listed on the CPFT Research website and people can also contact the Trust’s Windsor Research Unit to find out about suitable studies: email or telephone 01223 219531.

If you would like to learn more about CPFT’s CAMEO service, how to self-refer or help a friend or family member access early mental health support for distressing experiences, visit the service page: