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Keywords:

  • breast cancer;
  • depression;
  • radiation;
  • chemotherapy;
  • inflammation;
  • nuclear factor kappa B

BACKGROUND

Depression is common during and after breast cancer treatment. However, the role of specific therapeutic modalities and related biologic mechanisms remains unclear. Radiation is an essential component of breast-conserving therapy and may contribute to depression in patients with breast cancer through the activation of inflammatory pathways.

METHODS

Depressive symptoms and inflammatory mediators, including nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), were assessed at baseline (before radiation), during radiation, and 6 weeks after radiation in 64 women who had stage 0 through IIIA breast cancer.

RESULTS

No significant increases in depressive symptoms occurred during or after radiation, although a number of patients exhibited moderate-to-severe depression throughout the study. Multivariate analyses of baseline factors predictive of depression revealed that educational status, perceived stress, prior chemotherapy, and peripheral blood NF-κB DNA binding all were independent predictors of persistent depressive symptoms after radiation (all P < .05). Of these factors, only prior chemotherapy was associated with inflammatory mediators, including NF-κB DNA binding, soluble tumor necrosis factor-alpha receptor 2, and interleukin-6, which, in univariate analyses predicted depressive symptoms after radiation (all P < .05). Chemotherapy-treated patients also exhibited an over-representation of gene transcripts regulated by NF-κB.

CONCLUSIONS

Radiation was not associated with increased depressive symptoms in the current study, but of disease and treatment-related factors, prior chemotherapy predicted significant depression after radiation. Longitudinal studies are warranted to investigate the relationship among prior chemotherapy, inflammation, and persistent depression after breast cancer treatment. Cancer 2013;119:1951–1959. © 2013 American Cancer Society.