Open Access Study protocol

Internet-based guided self-help for glioma patients with depressive symptoms: design of a randomized controlled trial

Florien W Boele1*, Irma M Verdonck-de Leeuw23, Pim Cuijpers3, Jaap C Reijneveld4, Jan J Heimans4 and Martin Klein1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Psychology, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 Amsterdam, BT, the Netherlands

2 Department of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Clinical Psychology, VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

4 Department of Neurology, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 Amsterdam, MB, the Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Neurology 2014, 14:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-81

Published: 10 April 2014



Among glioma patients, depression is estimated to be more prevalent than in both the general population and the cancer patient population. This can have negative consequences for both patients and their primary informal caregivers (e.g., a spouse, family member or close friend). At present, there is no evidence from randomized controlled trials for the effectiveness of psychological treatment for depression in glioma patients. Furthermore, the possibility of delivering mental health care through the internet has not yet been explored in this population. Therefore, a randomized controlled trial is warranted to evaluate the effects of an internet-based, guided self-help intervention for depressive symptoms in glioma patients.


The intervention is based on problem-solving therapy. An existing 5-week course is adapted for use by adult glioma patients with mild to moderate depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale score ≥12). Sample size calculations yield 126 glioma patients to be included, who are randomly assigned to either the intervention group or a waiting list control group. In addition, we aim to include 63 patients with haematological cancer in a non-central nervous system malignancy control group. Assessments take place at baseline, after 6 and 12 weeks, and after 6 and 12 months. Primary outcome measure is the change in depressive symptoms. Secondary outcome measures include health-related quality of life, fatigue, costs and patient satisfaction. In addition, all patients are asked to assign a primary informal caregiver, who does not participate in the intervention but who is asked to complete similar assessments. Their mood, health-related quality of life and fatigue is evaluated as well.


This is the first study to evaluate the effects of problem-solving therapy delivered through the internet as treatment for depressive symptoms in glioma patients. If proven effective, this treatment will contribute to the mental health care of glioma patients in clinical practice.

Trial registration

Netherlands Trial Register NTR3223

Glioma; Brain tumor; Depression; Quality of life; Internet-based treatment; Informal caregiver