Depression and cancer: An unexplored and unresolved emergent issue in elderly patients

Ilaria Spoletini, Walter Gianni, Lazzaro Repetto, Pietro Bria, Carlo Caltagirone, Paola Bossù, Gianfranco Spalletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the high prevalence of depressive disorders in cancer patients and elderly people, the topic of depression in elderly cancer patients still remains unexplored. This emerges from a systematic review of the literature conducted to investigate issues of depression, diagnosis, pathogenesis, treatment and their complex neuroimmunobiological interactions. Indeed, it becomes apparent that depression in elderly patients with cancer may have a peculiar phenomenology. In addition, the moderate rate of major depressive disorder and the high rate of minor depressive disorder are accompanied by subthreshold forms of depression that are at risk to be underecognized and untreated. Immune dysfunction may represent a common pathogenic ground of depression, cancer and aging. This may have important implications for treatment. In the near future, we need to develop validated mood disorder diagnoses and verify antidepressant treatment efficacy for elderly cancer patients with depression in order to improve their clinical outcome and quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-155
Number of pages13
JournalCritical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • Cancer
  • Elderly
  • Immunology
  • Major depression
  • Minor depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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