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Depression makes chemotherapy less effective in cancer patients: Study

01-27 | DTC Team

Depression makes chemotherapy less effective in cancer patients: Study

Depression, one of the most serious mental and behavioral disorders, can be a major deterrent to cancer treatment. A group of researchers from Zhengzhou University, China, have linked lower levels of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) to how a cancer patient responds to the treatment.

The study, led by the Head of Oncology at Zhengzhou University, Yufeng Wu, has revealed that for people battling cancer the effectiveness of chemotherapy can be directly, and drastically, influenced by a patient’s mood. The study results suggest that if a person afflicted with cancer is in a depressed state of mind, it is possible that the response to medication and recovery becomes slower than in the case of patients with a more positive outlook.

Low levels of BDNF affect recovery

Depression, sadness and hopelessness are all emotions that many cancer patients experience. While previous researches have shown the relationship between lowered levels of BDNF and mental health disorders, this study especially focused on investigating if decreased BDNF levels directly affected chemotherapy patients.

The study found that decreased amounts of BDNF, a brain-boosting protein in the blood that helps nerves grow and mature, is responsible for determining the response to chemotherapy drugs. The team studied 186 cancer patients suffering from depression who were asked to self-evaluate their moods before the treatment began. The results were quite surprising.

The most depressed people, with low levels of BDNF, did not respond well to chemo and displayed side effects such as nausea, vomiting and reduction in leucocytes or white blood cells. They even had more frequent and prolonged hospital stays. However, patients with elevated BDNF responded far better to the treatment. Even the number of tumor cells that chemo killed in these people was much higher. Eventually, the severely depressed people lived for an average of 292 days as opposed to the much higher average of 491 days for the mildly depressed patients.

Psychological health is important in cancer treatment

The link between depression and poor outcome of cancer treatment is thus clear. Mental wellness plays a critical role in physical health. Improving the mood of cancer patients as well as targeting their depressed states, along with chemo, may well help them survive for a longer period of time.

While Wu and his team examined other factors as well, only BDNF was associated with depression. According to Wu, “It’s crucial that doctors pay more attention to the mood and emotional state of patients. Depression can reduce the effects of chemotherapy.” He went on to say that since the mental health of a patient can even affect how the disease progresses, one can now consider cancer as a psychosomatic illness.

Depression can be treated

Depression can seriously impact a person’s quality of life, lead to other serious disorders, negatively affect ongoing treatment of an illness and even reduce the length of life. However, the good news is that it can be treated. It is important to identify the warning signs at the right time and prevent worsening of the condition.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, seek help now from certified medical professionals. Contact the Depression Treatment Helpline of Colorado to know about some of the best


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