Depression in cancer patients might be caused by chemotherapy drugs

Study suggests that depression among cancer patients results from chemotherapy drugs, not just the mental distress of a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy session

Depression is common in patients with cancer and it has been suggested that its prevalence could be related to the effect of chemotherapy in stopping the generation of new neurons in the brain, known as neurogenesis.

To explore, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London used mice to study the effects of temozolomide, the standard chemotherapy for brain cancer.

They found that following a treatment regimen of temozolomide, the mice displayed signs of depression, including decreased pleasure seeking and an increased response to stress. The level of stress response was found to be inversely related to the level of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

Reporting in Translational Psychiatry
(online, 25 April 2017), the team says the results suggest that the development of depression in chemotherapy-treated patients may be related to the treatment itself and not solely down to the mental distress of the disease.


[1] Egeland M, Guinaudie C, Du Preez A et al. Depletion of adult neurogenesis using the chemotherapy drug temozolomide in mice induces behavioural and biological changes relevant to depression. Transl Psychiatry 2017; 7: e1101. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.68

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Depression in cancer patients might be caused by chemotherapy drugs;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202742

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