Pre-empt depression: Wednesday Weekly

The following round up of HNC news comes  from our Northland contributor and includes some quirky conundrums from Shower Thoughts. 

Getting over the physical side of cancer is, unfortunately, only part of the battle. There are going to be psychological effects with depression a likely intruder. Medication can usually alleviate the condition to a large extent and today’s lead article discusses when those extra pills should, or could, be introduced.


  • The problem with the modern medicine is that instead of extending our youth it extends our old age.
  • If your crystal meth dealer has all of their teeth, they’re probably the cops.
  • At some point, shopping at antique stores became less “wow, look at all the cool old stuff” and more “wow, I used to have this.”

Should people without depression take medication to prevent it?

(U.S.) If you were at risk for developing depression, would you take a pill to prevent it?

For years, physicians have prescribed antidepressants to treat people grappling with depression. Some people can benefit from taking these medications during an acute episode. Others with a history of recurrent depression may take antidepressants to help prevent relapses.

But researchers are studying a new use for these medications: to prevent depression in people who may have never had it before.

It has long been known that people with head and neck cancer are vulnerable to becoming depressed. These types of cancers can impair functionality at the most basic levels, like speaking or swallowing. Treatments, such as surgery and radiation, for these diseases can be debilitating. Some studies have estimated that up to half of patients with head and neck cancers may experience depression.

A group of researchers in Nebraska examined what would happen if non-depressed patients were given antidepressants before receiving treatment for head and neck cancer. Published in 2013, the results of the randomized, placebo-controlled trial were startling: Patients taking an antidepressant were 60 percent less likely to experience depression compared with peers who were given a placebo.

In medicine, this approach is often referred to as prophylaxis, or a treatment used to prevent disease.

Prophylactic antidepressants have shown promise in other high-risk patient populations as well. A meta-analysis published in 2014 found that prophylactic antidepressants cut down the incidence of depressive episodes among people receiving therapy for hepatitis C by more than 40 percent. Randomized trials suggest that patients who take antidepressants early after a stroke experience significantly lower rates of depression. Small studies have also found that people receiving treatment for melanoma may be less likely to develop depressive symptoms if they are pre-treated with antidepressants.

These findings provide compelling reasons for physicians and patients to consider using these medicines to preempt mental-health issues. But this experimental frontier — which relies on prediction and prevention — is controversial.

Full story:

Make Sense Campaign: Celebrating its 5th Year Across Europe

(BRUSSELS), Head and neck cancers can be debilitating and their aggressive nature can affect up to eight areas of the head and neck. It's the 7th most common type of cancer in Europe with more than 150,000 new patients diagnosed every year. Men are two to three times more likely to develop head and neck cancer, although the incidence in women is increasing. Being able to identify early signs and symptoms is crucial to survival, as 80 - 90% of head and neck cancer patients diagnosed and treated in the early stages survive. Awareness among the public remains poor despite a marked increase in those surviving following early treatment; however, overall patient outcomes have not yet improved accordingly and more efforts are needed.

"Head and neck cancer is a complex disease, and through the Make Sense campaign we unify and stimulate the head and neck community in Europe to continuously work towards better outcomes for patients," said Professor René Leemans, President of the EHNS and Professor and Chief of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam. "We recognise that newer additions to the treatment landscape offer great hope, although, we must be mindful that supporting patients who survive this aggressive cancer requires an equally determined, long-term, multidisciplinary approach."

Activities are taking place this week across Europe and focus on providing credible, up-to-date information on head and neck cancer to help ensure optimal diagnosis, treatment and survival care.

To find out more information about activities taking place, please visit: and click on the interactive map of events

Full story:

Drug combination may improve impact of immunotherapy in head and neck cancer

(CALIFORNIA) Checkpoint inhibitor-based immunotherapy has been shown to be very effective in recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer but only in a minority of patients. University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers may have found a way to double down on immunotherapy's effectiveness.

In a paper published in the journal JCI Insights on September 21, researchers report that a combination of toll-like receptors (TLR) agonists -- specialized proteins that initiate immune response to foreign pathogens or, in this case, cancer cells -- and other immunotherapies injected directly into a tumor suppresses tumor growth throughout the whole body."The mechanism reverses the phenotype of a tumor by changing its inherit properties to make the tumor more immunogenic," said Ezra E.W. Cohen, MD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and associate director for translational science at UC San Diego Moores

Cancer Center and senior author on the paper. "In this study, the combination of immunotherapy drugs resulted in the complete elimination of cancer cells and even when re-challenged the tumors did not recur."

Full story:

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