Lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, but less known is that lung cancer patients are among the most psychologically disabled of all cancer groups. Patients with stage IV non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were studied to test the hypothesis that trajectories of depression and/or anxiety symptoms after diagnosis would show an adverse relationship with survival, beyond relevant controls.
Patients with stage IV NSCLC (n = 157) were enrolled (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03199651) at diagnosis and completed validated measures for depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) and anxiety symptoms (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7). Patients were reassessed every 1 to 2 months through 24 months (16 assessments; 80% average completion rate) and survival monitored. Joint statistical models provided simultaneous modeling of longitudinal (psychological) and time-to-event (survival) processes. Control variables were age, sex, marital status, education, smoking status, cancer type, and treatment received.
Depression and anxiety symptoms significantly decreased with time since diagnosis. The 2-year trajectory of depressive symptoms was significantly associated with cancer survival after adjustment for covariates (hazard ratio = 1.09 per unit increase in the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, 95% confidence interval = 1.03–1.15, p = .002). Anxiety was marginally significant in the unadjusted (p = .053) but not the adjusted (p = .39) model.
For the first time, joint model analyses test the interaction of a longitudinal trajectory of psychological symptoms, assessed from diagnosis to 24 months, and cancer survival. New data show the continuation of depressive and anxiety symptoms through treatment and thereafter. Immunotherapy and targeted therapies have dramatically improved survival for patients with advanced NSCLC; however, novel data suggest their benefit may be constrained by depressive symptoms.