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Depressed with cancer can respond to antidepressants, but further research is needed to confirm and expand on these findings
  1. Tatsuo Akechi1,
  2. Toshi A Furukawa2
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry and Cognitive-Behavioral Medicine, Nagoya City University, Nagoya, Japan
  2. 2Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tatsuo Akechi, takechi{at}

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What is already known on this topic?

The quality of life of patients with cancer is affected not only by their physical illness but also by comorbid psychological conditions, such as depression. Mitchell and colleagues reported that major depression has a point prevalence of 10–20% in patients with cancer, irrespective of cancer stage.1 This prevalence is similar to that seen in patients with other chronic medical illnesses. Both psychological and pharmacological approaches are suggested to be effective for patients with cancer with elevated depressive symptoms.2

What this paper adds

  • There is very limited evidence to guide the treatment of patients with cancer with a diagnosis of major depression.

  • In particular, there is very little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of psychological treatments.

  • Some evidence exists that antidepressants, alone or in combination with a psychological treatment, may be effective.


  • The identified studies were too heterogeneous with regard to both the participants and the type of treatments to allow …

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  • Competing interests TA has received speaking fees and/or research funds from Astra-Zeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Meiji, MSD, Otsuka, Pfizer, Yoshitomi, Shionogi and NHK enterprise. He has received royalties from Igaku-Shoin and Nanzando. TAF has received lecture fees from Eli Lilly, Meiji, Mochida, MSD, Pfizer and Tanabe-Mitsubishi and consultancy fees from Sekisui and Takeda Science Foundation. He is diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and Deputy Editor of the journal EBMH.

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