The biology of depression in cancer and the relationship between depression and cancer progression

Jorge Luis Sotelo, Dominique Musselman, Charles Nemeroff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


The prevalence of depressive symptoms in patients with cancer exceeds that observed in the general population and depression is associated with a poorer prognosis in cancer patients. The increased prevalence is not solely explained by the psychosocial stress associated with the diagnosis. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, which induce sickness behaviour with symptoms overlapping those of clinical depression, are validated biomarkers of increased inflammation in patients with cancer. A growing literature reveals that chronic inflammatory processes associated with stress may also underlie depression symptoms in general, and in patients with cancer in particular. Therapeutic modalities, which are frequently poorly tolerated, are used in the treatment of cancer. These interventions are associated with inflammatory reactions, which may help to explain their toxicity. There is evidence that antidepressants can effectively treat symptoms of depression in cancer patients though the database is meager. Novel agents with anti-inflammatory properties may be effective alternatives for patients with treatment-resistant depression who exhibit evidence of increased inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-30
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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