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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Antidepressants for the treatment of depression in people with cancer

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, April 2018
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (92nd percentile)
  • Good Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (68th percentile)

Mentioned by

2 news outlets
25 tweeters
1 Facebook page
1 Google+ user


84 Dimensions

Readers on

414 Mendeley
Antidepressants for the treatment of depression in people with cancer
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, April 2018
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd011006.pub3
Pubmed ID

Giovanni Ostuzzi, Faith Matcham, Sarah Dauchy, Corrado Barbui, Matthew Hotopf


Major depression and other depressive conditions are common in people with cancer. These conditions are not easily detectable in clinical practice, due to the overlap between medical and psychiatric symptoms, as described by diagnostic manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Moreover, it is particularly challenging to distinguish between pathological and normal reactions to such a severe illness. Depressive symptoms, even in subthreshold manifestations, have been shown to have a negative impact in terms of quality of life, compliance with anti-cancer treatment, suicide risk and likely even the mortality rate for the cancer itself. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on the efficacy, tolerability and acceptability of antidepressants in this population are few and often report conflicting results. To assess the efficacy, tolerability and acceptability of antidepressants for treating depressive symptoms in adults (aged 18 years or older) with cancer (any site and stage). We searched the following electronic bibliographic databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2017, Issue 6), MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to June week 4 2017), Embase Ovid (1980 to 2017 week 27) and PsycINFO Ovid (1987 to July week 4 2017). We additionally handsearched the trial databases of the most relevant national, international and pharmaceutical company trial registers and drug-approving agencies for published, unpublished and ongoing controlled trials. We included RCTs comparing antidepressants versus placebo, or antidepressants versus other antidepressants, in adults (aged 18 years or above) with any primary diagnosis of cancer and depression (including major depressive disorder, adjustment disorder, dysthymic disorder or depressive symptoms in the absence of a formal diagnosis). Two review authors independently checked eligibility and extracted data using a form specifically designed for the aims of this review. The two authors compared the data extracted and then entered data into Review Manager 5 using a double-entry procedure. Information extracted included study and participant characteristics, intervention details, outcome measures for each time point of interest, cost analysis and sponsorship by a drug company. We used the standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We retrieved a total of 10 studies (885 participants), seven of which contributed to the meta-analysis for the primary outcome. Four of these compared antidepressants and placebo, two compared two antidepressants, and one three-armed study compared two antidepressants and placebo. In this update we included one additional unpublished study. These new data contributed to the secondary analysis, while the results of the primary analysis remained unchanged.For acute-phase treatment response (6 to 12 weeks), we found no difference between antidepressants as a class and placebo on symptoms of depression measured both as a continuous outcome (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.01 to 0.11, five RCTs, 266 participants; very low certainty evidence) and as a proportion of people who had depression at the end of the study (risk ratio (RR) 0.82, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.08, five RCTs, 417 participants; very low certainty evidence). No trials reported data on follow-up response (more than 12 weeks). In head-to-head comparisons we only retrieved data for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) versus tricyclic antidepressants, showing no difference between these two classes (SMD -0.08, 95% CI -0.34 to 0.18, three RCTs, 237 participants; very low certainty evidence). No clear evidence of a beneficial effect of antidepressants versus either placebo or other antidepressants emerged from our analyses of the secondary efficacy outcomes (dichotomous outcome, response at 6 to 12 weeks, very low certainty evidence). In terms of dropouts due to any cause, we found no difference between antidepressants as a class compared with placebo (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.38, seven RCTs, 479 participants; very low certainty evidence), and between SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.30, three RCTs, 237 participants). We downgraded the certainty (quality) of the evidence because the included studies were at an unclear or high risk of bias due to poor reporting, imprecision arising from small sample sizes and wide confidence intervals, and inconsistency due to statistical or clinical heterogeneity. Despite the impact of depression on people with cancer, the available studies were very few and of low quality. This review found very low certainty evidence for the effects of these drugs compared with placebo. On the basis of these results, clear implications for practice cannot be deduced. The use of antidepressants in people with cancer should be considered on an individual basis and, considering the lack of head-to-head data, the choice of which agent to prescribe may be based on the data on antidepressant efficacy in the general population of individuals with major depression, also taking into account that data on medically ill patients suggest a positive safety profile for the SSRIs. To better inform clinical practice, there is an urgent need for large, simple, randomised, pragmatic trials comparing commonly used antidepressants versus placebo in people with cancer who have depressive symptoms, with or without a formal diagnosis of a depressive disorder.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 25 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 414 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 1 <1%
Singapore 1 <1%
Canada 1 <1%
Unknown 411 99%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 68 16%
Student > Bachelor 55 13%
Researcher 37 9%
Student > Postgraduate 27 7%
Student > Doctoral Student 27 7%
Other 70 17%
Unknown 130 31%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 122 29%
Psychology 36 9%
Nursing and Health Professions 30 7%
Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science 17 4%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 9 2%
Other 46 11%
Unknown 154 37%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 33. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 29 August 2020.
All research outputs
of 21,745,818 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 12,100 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 297,720 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 186 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 21,745,818 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 95th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 12,100 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 29.6. This one has done well, scoring higher than 81% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 297,720 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 92% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 186 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has gotten more attention than average, scoring higher than 68% of its contemporaries.