Antidepressants May Help Body Fight Cancer, HIV

Posted on May 12, 2008

The Independent reports that new research published in inBiological Psychiatry indicates some antidepressants may help they body fight HIV, cancer and other infections.

Natural killer (NK) cells are white blood cells which home in on infected or cancerous cells, releasing agents that induce apoptosis, or "cell suicide". NK cells are especially active against viruses.

The research emerged from findings that stress and depression impair NK cell function and can accelerate the progress of HIV/ Aids. Scientists recruited depressed and non-depressed HIV-positive women and treated them with three drugs to treat stress and depression. Two, Citalopram and the "substance P antagonist" CP-96345 increased NK cell activity, while RU486 had no effect.

The Independent article also contained the following quote from the leader of the research team, Dr Dwight Evans of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia: "The findings show that natural killer cell function in HIV infection may be enhanced by selective serotonin re-uptake inhibition and substance P antagonism."

It sounds promising. If additional research supports the theory it is possible more people suffering from HIV and/or cancer will also be put on an antidepressant. Many cancer patients already are because it helps with chronic pain management.

More from Science Space & Robots