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 cancer (SMaRT Oncology 2)
This trial was looking at a treatment programme for depression in people with cancer. The trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
About 1 in 10 people with cancer also have depression. This can really affect peoples'
In this trial, researchers compared 2 different ways of treating depression in people with 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 Cancer (DCPC) which is delivered by a team of specially trained nurses and psychiatrists
The aim of the trial was to see how well the DCPC programme worked compared to usual care.
Summary of results
The trial team found that more people having DCPC responded to treatment for depression than those having usual care.
The trial recruited 500 people. They all had cancer and 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.
- 253 had the Depression Care for People with Cancer programme
- 247 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 DCPC 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.
Everyone taking part in the trial filled out some questionnaires every 3 months. One of the questionnaires used in this trial asks people about 20 symptoms of depression to give a score. A high score shows the symptoms are severe. A reduction in the score shows depression is improving. The researchers considered a 50% reduction in the score after 6 months as a response to treatment. The number of people who had this response to treatment was
- 40 people (17%) in the group having usual care
- 143 people (62%) in the group having the Depression Care for People with Cancer programme
The researchers also found that compared with usual care, people having DCPC had less anxiety, pain and tiredness (fatigue). They also rated their quality of life, and the quality of their depression care, as better than people having usual care
The trial team concluded that the programme was helpful for treating depression in people with cancer.
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