Behavioral genetics of the depression/cancer correlation: a look at the Ras oncogene family and the 'cerebral diabetes paradigm'

J Mol Neurosci. 2008 Jul;35(3):307-22. doi: 10.1007/s12031-008-9078-2. Epub 2008 Jun 18.


This study investigates the causes of the observed linkage between depression and later onset of cancer. The prevailing view is that cancer in depressed patients results from a weakened immune system. However, molecular biologists have recognized that dysregulation of the ras proto-oncogene results in impaired serotonin and dopamine synthesis manifesting as major depression. A qualitative review of the literature showed that (1) studies using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory showed a greater correlation between depression and later cancer onset than those employing other measures and (2) the more related the cancer type was to the Ras oncogene family, the greater the correlation between depression and later cancer onset. These results support the hypothesis that the ras proto-oncogene plays a role in the etiology of depression and could be the common denominator in long-observed depression/cancer linkages. Previous depression/cancer linkage studies are confounded in that they failed to analyze cancer type and accurately diagnose depression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Complications / genetics
  • Diabetes Complications / metabolism
  • Diabetes Complications / physiopathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Genes, ras / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / genetics