The European Institute of Oncology issued the following announcement:

Antidepressants May Help Fight Cancer By Boosting Body’s Immune Response

Article Date: 14 Sep 2008 – 0:00 PDT

A comprehensive review of current scientific literature, published in
the peer-reviewed journal ecancer, has suggested that antidepressants
can help the human body fight cancer by boosting its own immune
response, amongst other mechanisms.

Not only this but they can help with side effects from chemotherapy such
as aiding sleep, stimulating appetite, combating pain and avoiding depression.

Antidepressants work by affecting levels of chemicals known as
prostaglandins*. These are ephemeral, infinitesimal signallers self-
regulating every cell in the body, including those serving mood and
immunity. When first discovered they were perceived as a master switch,
but are now believed to regulate every component of cellular
microanatomy and physiology, including those of the organelles,
cytoskeleton, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids and mitochondria.

Prostaglandins are responsible, paradoxically, for both cell function
and dysfunction. Excessive prostaglandin synthesis depresses immune
function and may induce cancer.

An ideal anticancer agent would inhibit prostaglandins in such a manner
as to shut down the pathogenesis of cancer. The article indicates that
antidepressants have such properties.

Report author, Dr Julian Lieb of Vermont, USA, concludes that
antidepressants have the potential to arrest, prevent, reverse and
palliate cancer. He also points out that short of that they have many
other uses in cancer care.

Antidepressants can reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes in
patients treated with chemotherapy, and venlafaxine (Effexor) remit
acute neurosensory symptoms secondary to oxaliplatin chemotherapy. The
monoamine oxidase inhibitors deprenyl and clorgyline protect
nonmalignant cells from ionizing radiation and chemotherapy toxicity,
and such antidepressants as nefadazone are capable of reversing
chemotherapy-induced vomiting.

The report notes that as the response to antidepressants is highly
specific, many patients require multiple trials before responding. It
found that some subjects are non-responsive to all antidepressants, and
some may relapse due to getting used to the drug. However, adjusting
prostaglandins can induce both pro and anti-cancer actions. The constant
presence of this paradox means that antidepressants may be capable of
initiating or accelerating cancer and thus maintaining close clinical
observation and limiting the duration of drug trials is essential.

The review also points out that epidemiological studies have failed to
confirm the suspicion that antidepressants may induce breast cancer.
However, breast cancer has been reported in three men taking selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Dr Lieb added: “Wherever prostaglandin-synthesizing enzymes convert
arachidonic acid to prostaglandins there are possible sites of action of
antidepressants. By maintaining these enzymes within physiological
limits, antidepressants shut down the mechanisms of carcinogenesis.
Considerable evidence now shows that antidepressants are cytotoxic,
cytostatic, convert multidrug resistant cells to sensitive, and protect
nonmalignant cells from ionizing radiation and chemotherapy.

Antidepressants have potent pain relieving properties alone, or through
enhancing narcotics, and they enhance sleep, appetite and occasionally
energy. Their immuno-stimulating and antimicrobial properties may help
with infection secondary to chemotherapy or radiation. Alleviation of
anxiety, depression, fear of death, recrimination and remorse by
antidepressants can be very beneficial, though care must be taken to
monitor for negative effects such as intensification of depression or
pain. Overall, the positive effects of antidepressants in cancer
therapeutics far outweigh the negatives.”

*A prostaglandin is any member of a group of lipid compounds that are
derived enzymatically from fatty acids and have important functions in
the body.

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