Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

Efficacy of psychodynamic short-term psychotherapy for depressed breast cancer patients: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Rüdiger Zwerenz1*, Manfred E Beutel1, Barbara H Imruck1, Jörg Wiltink1, Antje Haselbacher1, Christian Ruckes2, Heinz Schmidberger3, Gerald Hoffmann4, Marcus Schmidt5, Uwe Köhler6, Dagmar Langanke7, Rolf-Dieter Kortmann8, Susanne Kuhnt9, Gregor Weißflog9, Yvette Barthel9, Katja Leuteritz9 and Elmar Brähler9

Author Affiliations

1 Department for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Mainz, Untere Zahlbacher Str. 8, 55131, Mainz, Germany

2 Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Trials, University Medical Center Mainz, Langenbeckstr., 2, 55131, Mainz, Germany

3 Clinic for Radiotherapy, University Medical Center Mainz, Langenbeckstr., 2, 55131, Mainz, Germany

4 St. Josefs-Hospital, Breast Center, Beethovenstr., 20, 65189, Wiesbaden, Germany

5 Clinic for Gynecology, Breast Center, University Medical Center Mainz, Langenbeckstr., 2, 55131, Mainz, Germany

6 St. Georg-Hospital, Breast Center, Delitzscher Str. 141, 04129, Leipzig, Germany

7 St. Elisabeth Hospital, Breast Center, Biedermannstr., 84, 04277, Leipzig, Germany

8 Clinic for radiotherapy, University Medical Center Leipzig, Stephanstr., 9, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

9 Department for Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, University Leipzig, Philipp-Rosenthal-Str. 55, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:578  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-578

Published: 5 December 2012



There is a lack of psychotherapeutic trials of treatments of comorbid depression in cancer patients. Our study determines the efficacy of a manualized short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and predictors of outcome by personality and quality of the therapeutic relationship.


Eligible breast cancer patients with comorbid depression are assigned to short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy (up to 20 + 5 sessions) or to treatment as usual (augmented by recommendation for counseling center and physician information). We plan to recruit a total of 180 patients (90 per arm) in two centers. Assessments are conducted pretreatment, after 6 (treatment termination) and 12 months (follow-up). The primary outcome measures are reduction of the depression score in the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and remission of depression as assessed by means of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM IV Disorders by independent, blinded assessors at treatment termination. Secondary outcomes refer to quality of life.


We investigate the efficacy of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy in acute care and we aim to identify predictors for acceptance and success of treatment.

Trial registration


Breast cancer; Depression; Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy; Personality; Helping alliance; Quality of life