Depression Affects Patient Response To Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy may be less effective for depressed patients than for non-depressed patients, according to researchers at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

An ESMO study found that cancer patients with depression have diminished levels of BDNF in their blood. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a brain-enhancing protein associated with responsiveness to chemotherapy, and a greater tolerance for the treatment’s side effects.

“It’s crucial doctors pay more attention to the mood and emotional state of patients,” said the study’s lead author, oncologist Yufeng Wu. “Depression can reduce the effects of chemotherapy and BDNF plays an important role in this process.”

Wu and colleagues specifically looked at how depression affects treatment outcomes for those with advanced lung cancer. They recruited 186 newly-diagnosed individuals receiving chemotherapy, and assessed their mood level the day before treatment began. Quality of life information and other relevant data was also obtained.

The study outcomes showed that patients whose cancer had spread to other organs were the most depressed, and this significantly diminished their tolerance for chemotherapy. Decreased tolerance was indicated by vomiting, reduced white cell counts, and lengthy hospital stays.

The investigators also noted that BDNF clearly increased the number of tumor cells destroyed by chemotherapy. Patients with lower BDNF protein levels owed to depression were less able to fight their cancer, lowering the likelihood of survival.

The ESMO researchers will now begin treating depressed cancer patients with an antidepressant to see whether it improves their tolerance for chemotherapy, and the treatment’s effectiveness.

Source: Science Daily


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