Rodin, G., Lloyd, N., Katz, M., Green, E., Mackay, J.A., & Wong, R.K.S. (2007). The treatment of depression in cancer patients: A systematic review. Supportive Care in Cancer, 15, 123–136.doi: 10.1007/s00520-006-0145-3
To evaluate the efficacy of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments for depression in patients with cancer
Authors identified seven pharmacologic randomized control trials and four nonpharmacologic trials.
Pharmacologic trials: Three trials detected significant differences (symptom improvement) among treatment groups on a measure of depression. Two compared the antidepressant mianserin to placebo. The third, which compared use of alprazolam to muscle relaxation, found reduction in symptoms of depression with the use of alprazolam. Two studies compared active treatments—fluoxetine versus desipramine and paroxetine versus amitriptyline. They found improvement of symptoms of depression in all groups, with no differences in treatment efficacy. The remaining two trials found no significant differences among patients randomized to fluoxetine versus placebo; however, only low-dose fluoxetine was evaluated in one of the studies, and both studies were for a short duration, only five weeks.
Nonpharmacologic trials: Two of the four studies reported greater improvement in symptoms of depression in the intervention groups rather than in groups with usual care. Interventions included an orientation program with educational information and a multicomponent intervention. One of the remaining studies found that adjuvant psychotherapy did not significantly affect patients’ Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) subscores for depression. The final study found no significant difference among patients receiving cognitive-existential group therapy plus relaxation and those receiving relaxation therapies alone.
The evidence of treatment effectiveness for depressive disorders in patients with cancer is limited and of modest quality.
At present, treatment guidelines must be based on limited evidence and on data derived from the general population, other medically ill populations, and on expert opinions.