Rodriguez Vega, B., Palao, A., Torres, G., Hospital, A., Benito, G., Perez, E., . . . Bayon, C. (2011). Combined therapy versus usual care for the treatment of depression in oncologic patients: A randomized controlled trial. Psycho-Oncology, 20(9), 943–952.doi:10.1002/pon.1800
To compare the effects—on quality of life and symptoms of depression—of an intervention consisting of a psychotherapeutic intervention, narrative therapy, plus escitalopram to the effects of usual care plus escitalopram
The initial sample was composed of 1,026 patients, between March 2006 and June 2008, with a diagnosis of breast, lung, or colorectal nonmetastatic cancer, three months after cancer diagnosis and no later than two years after diagnosis. Investigators used the Hospital and Anxiety Depression Scale (HADS) to screen participants for depression. A total of 150 had depressive disorder according to DSM-IV-TR criteria. The study contained 72 participants, 33 in usual care and 39 in combined care. Escitalopram was administered on a fixed-flexible schedule in both groups, beginning with 10 mg per day and adjusted up to 20 mg per day by week 8. A minimum of six months treatment was established for both groups. The narrative intervention was carried out individually during 12 weekly sessions, each 45 minutes long, and was guided by a treatment manual. Of the sessions, 10% were videotaped to help ensure adherence. Usual care consisted of oncologist-adminstered antidepressant. The oncologist followed a protocol and reported side effects of the medication. The follow-up of patients in the usual-care group was similar to that of patients in the treatment group. Investigators assessed depression-related outcome at weeks 12 and 24.
Two-center randomized controlled trial
Demographic variables did not differ significantly between the two groups. Gender and age were unbalanced because of cancer types. At 12 and 24 weeks, the combined-therapy group showed significantly greater improvement in all the dimensions of function (p < 0.01), pain scale (p = 0.02), global health (p = 0.02), and global quality of life (p = 0.007). Between groups there were no statistically significant differences in symptoms of depression. From week 12 to 24, study retention was higher in the combined-treatment group (p = 0.01).
Using combined therapy for major depression in patients with cancer results in significant improvements in quality of life but does not result in a significant reduction in symptoms of depression. Narrative therapy is an integrative intervention designed to address components of critical importance in patients with depression. The therapy may have a positive impact on patient’s fears and worries about medication interactions and side effects.
The interventions proved to be acceptable to patients. The intervention shows good potential for dissemination, is relatively easy to implement, and improved compliance. The intervention may be a low-cost means of improving the quality of life of patients with cancer.