The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore presented a study showing that cancer patients who experience depression may not respond to chemotherapy as well as patients who are depression-free. The study determined that depressed patients often have low BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels in their blood, and these low levels have an effect of decreasing the patients’ responses to chemotherapy, resulting in treatments that kill fewer tumors.
Rating Patients’ Levels of Depression
Yufeng Wu, a researcher from the Affiliated Cancer Hospital of Zhengzhou University, described the study findings and explained that many cancer patients develop depression, which prompted the researchers to ascertain whether BDNF levels in the blood had significant importance in chemotherapy treatments. Wu and a team of fellow researchers performed measurements of BDNF levels on 186 people who had recently received diagnoses of advanced lung cancer. The researchers gathered information from the patients regarding their mood, determining the individuals’ states of mind by asking them to rate their levels of depression the day before they began their first day of treatments.
Comparing Data to Patients’ Mood Scores
Wu and the researchers compiled data, such as the patients’ overall survival and quality of life details, and compared the data to the mood scores they had previously gathered. The study showed that patients whose cancer had spread to other organs in their bodies were among those who had reported the highest levels of depression. The researchers found a link between depression and a decrease in chemotherapy tolerance due to low BDNF levels, and they discovered that severely depressed patients experienced a reduction in the length of time that they lived with the disease without it worsening.
The researchers stressed the importance of prescribing drugs, such as fluoxetine, to depressed cancer patients to improve their chemotherapy success. Because of this, doctors should pay special attention to cancer patients’ emotional states and moods during office visits and consider prescribing drugs that can effectively treat the depression from which the cancer patients suffer.
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