Are inflammatory cytokines the common link between cancer-associated cachexia and depression?

James Illman, Robert Corringham, Don Robinson, Hugh M. Davis, Jean Francois Rossi, David Cella, Mohit Trikha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


The prevalence of depression among patients diagnosed with cancer is higher than among the general medical population and is associated with faster tumor progression and shortened survival time. Cancer-related depression often occurs in association with anorexia and cachexia, although until recently the relationship between these conditions has not been well understood. Cachexia is associated with poorer quality of life and survival outcomes and is the eventual cause of death in approximately 30% of all patients with cancer. Recent evidence has linked elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines with both depression and cachexia, and experiments have shown that introducing cytokines induces depression and cachectic symptoms in both humans and rodents, suggesting that there may be a common etiology at the molecular level. Therapeutic agents targeting specific cytokine molecules, such as interleukin-6 or tumor necrosis factor-alpha, are currently being evaluated for their potential to simultaneously treat both depression and cachexia pharmacologically. This review summarizes the available data suggesting a dual role for cytokines in the development of cancer-related depression and cachexia and describes how biologic therapies targeting specific cytokines may improve outcomes beyond depression and cachexia, such as survival and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-50
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Supportive Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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