Association between immune activation and early depressive symptoms in cancer patients treated with interleukin-2-based therapy

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Nov;26(8):797-808. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(01)00030-0.


The relationship between immune activation and the development of early depressive symptoms were studied in 33 cancer patients undergoing cytokine therapy. Patients were treated either with subcutaneous IL-2 administered alone (n=13) or in association with IFN-alpha (n=5), or with IFN-alpha alone administered subcutaneously at low doses (n=5) or intravenously at high doses (n=10). The intensity of depressive symptoms was assessed during a clinical interview carried out before the start of cytokine therapy and five days later using the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). On the same days, blood samples were collected for each patient to measure serum concentrations of cytokines (IL-6, IL-10, IL-1ra) and cytokine-receptors (sIL-2R, LIF-R). Results showed that patients treated with IL-2 or IL-2+IFN-alpha displayed concomitant mood symptoms and increased serum cytokine levels during treatment. In these patients, the intensity of depressive symptoms at endpoint was positively correlated with the increases measured in serum levels of IL-10 between baseline and endpoint. IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory cytokine that is produced in response to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and thereby reflects an inflammatory response. These results support the hypothesis of close relationship between depressive symptoms and the activation of the cytokine network.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / psychology
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Depression / chemically induced*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Interleukin-2 / adverse effects*
  • Interleukin-2 / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interleukin-2