Washington D.C. [USA], Dec. 18 : A new study reveals depression can reduce the effects of a brain-boosting protein, which plays an important role in how well people respond to chemotherapy.
The findings, presented at ESMO Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore, stated that cancer patients suffering depression have decreased amounts of brain-derived neurotophic factor (BDNF) in their blood.
Low levels make people less responsive to cancer drugs and less tolerant of their side-effects. Patients with severe depression had lower levels of the protein in the blood so their bodies were not as effective at fighting cancer.
This reduced their chance of surviving the disease. "It's crucial doctors pay more attention to the mood and emotional state of patients. Depression can reduce the effects of chemotherapy and BDNF plays an important role in this process," said lead study author Yufeng Wu from Zhengzhou University in China.
BDNF is essential for healthy brain function and low levels have already been linked with mental illness.
This study aimed to discover how depression influenced outcomes for people with advanced lung cancer. The researchers recruited 186 newly diagnosed patients receiving chemotherapy. To assess their state of mind, they were asked to rate their depression levels the day before treatment began.
Their quality of life details, overall survival and other data were also collected. This allowed researchers to compare this information with the patients' mood scores. The results showed that those whose cancer had spread to other organs were the most depressed and this severely decreased their tolerance to chemotherapy.
It was associated with vomiting, a reduction in white blood cells and prolonged hospital stays. The impact of severe depression was even greater. It reduced the length of time that patients lived with the disease without it getting worse. They found that BDNF clearly boosted the number of tumour cells killed by chemotherapy. "Our aim now is to prescribe drugs such as fluoxetine to depressed patients and study their sensitivity to chemotherapy," added Wu.