Depression and glioblastoma, complicated concomitant diseases: a systemic review of published literature

Neurosurg Rev. 2020 Apr;43(2):497-511. doi: 10.1007/s10143-018-1017-2. Epub 2018 Aug 9.


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common primary brain cancer. Depression is a common co-morbidity of this condition. Despite this common interaction, relatively little research has been performed on the development of GBM-associated depression. We performed a literary search of the PubMed database for articles published relating to GBM and depression. A total of 85 articles were identified with 46 meeting inclusion criteria. Depression significantly impacts care, decreasing medication compliance, and patient survival. Diagnostically, because depression and GBM share intricate neuro-connectivity in a way that effect functionality, these diseases can be mistaken for alternative psychological or pathological disorders, complicating care. Therapeutically, anti-depressants have anti-tumor properties; yet, some have been shown to interfere with GBM treatment. One reason for this is that the pathophysiological development of depression and GBM share several pathways including altered regulation of the 5-HT receptor, norepinephrine, and 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate. Over time, depression can persist after GBM treatment, affecting patient quality of life. Together, depression and GBM are complicated concomitant diseases. Clinicians must be aware of their co-existence. Because of overlapping molecular pathways involved in both diseases, careful medication selection is imperative to avoid potential adverse interactions. Since GBMs are the most common primary brain cancer, physicians dealing with this disease should be prepared for the development of depression as a potential sequela of this condition, given the related pathophysiology and the known poor outcomes.

Keywords: Anti-depressants; Depression; Glioblastoma; Major depressive disorder; Patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Neoplasms / complications*
  • Brain Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Glioblastoma / complications*
  • Glioblastoma / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life


  • Antidepressive Agents