Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at treating depression in people with lung cancer (SMaRT Oncology 3)
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This trial was looking at a treatment programme for depression in people with lung cancer. The trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
People who have lung cancer may also have depression. This can really affect peoples'
In this trial, researchers compared 2 different ways of treating depression in people with lung cancer. The people taking part had 1 of the following
- The usual care from their GP or cancer specialist
- The usual care, and a treatment programme called Depression Care for People with Lung Cancer (DCPLC) which is delivered by a team of specially trained nurses and psychiatrists
The programme had already been developed for people with cancer, but the researchers had altered it to meet the needs of people with lung cancer.
Summary of results
The researchers found that the DCPLC programme worked better than usual care.
The trial recruited 142 people. All the people taking part had lung cancer and the average time since they had been diagnosed was just over 7 months. They also had a diagnosis of major depression with symptoms for at least a month.
The trial was randomised. The people taking part were put into 1 of 2 groups by a computer. Neither they nor their doctor could decide which group they were in.
- 68 had the Depression Care for People with Lung Cancer programme
- 74 had usual care
For people in the usual care group, the trial team told their GP and cancer specialist that they had depression and asked their doctors to treat them as they normally would. This might include the use of anti depressants, or being referred for treatment such as counselling. The people taking part were encouraged to ask their GP about getting treatment.
People in the DCPLC group had this usual care, but they also had sessions with a specially trained nurse who worked in a team with a psychiatrist. They could have up to 10 sessions over 4 months and they were then followed up each month. During the treatment sessions, the nurse discussed anti depressant medication and provided psychological therapy such as education about depression and its treatment, finding ways to be as active as possible and learning ways to cope better with problems.
Each session was video recorded so that the nurse and psychiatrist could see how each person was getting on during their weekly team meetings. The psychiatrist also advised the GP on which anti depressants to prescribe at what dose and when to change these.
Everyone taking part in the trial filled out some questionnaires every 4 weeks for up to 8 months. One of the questionnaires used in this trial asks people about 20 symptoms of depression to give a score. The researchers found that the average depression scores were significantly lower for people who had DCPLC than for those having usual care.
The researchers also found that compared with usual care, people having the DCPLC programme had less anxiety and rated their quality of life better.
A researcher interviewed 48 people who had the DCPLC programme to see what they thought of it.
- 41 people said the treatment had been helpful
- 46 people said they would recommend it to a friend in a similar situation
The trial team concluded that the Depression Care for People with Lung Cancer programme was better than usual care. They suggest larger trials are needed to find out how much it would cost to deliver.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Michael Sharpe
Cancer Research UK
Chief Scientist’s Office
Scottish Mental Health Research Network