June 4, 2009 / 7:18 PM / 10 years ago

Antidepressant curbs cancer-related mental ills

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with cancer often suffer mental impairment, but it seems this can be alleviated by treatment with Paxil, an SSRI-type antidepressant, according to results of a National Cancer Institute-supported study.

The findings were reported this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Orlando.

“Cancer and its treatment impact important areas of cognitive function such as attention and memory, which are essential to patients’ effective psychosocial functioning and quality of life,” Dr. Pascal Jean-Pierre, from the University of Rochester, New York and colleagues point out in a meeting paper.

“Both depression and cancer-related cognitive dysfunction share the same networks in the brain,” Jean-Pierre explained in an interview with Reuters Health, Therefore, he and his colleagues looked into Paxil treatment in close to 800 cancer patients aged 22 to 87 years.

The researchers found “significant differences” between the participants’ reports of memory problems after their first round of chemotherapy (before Paxil) and after four cycles of chemo and treatment with Paxil.

Paxil had a significant beneficial effect on cancer-related mental impairment. Even after taking depression out of the equation, “we still saw a significant effect of Paxil on cognitive function,” Jean-Pierre told Reuters Health.

“This was an exploratory analysis,” he cautioned, “so future studies need to replicate these findings, but the results do show that using SSRIs and other psychostimulants might be an approach to cancer-related cognitive dysfunction.”

He concluded, “It’s worth moving forward and investigating this further.”

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