Psilocybin May Improve Major Depression in Cancer Patients



A recent open-label study conducted by Maryland Oncology Hematology at the Aquilino Cancer Center in Rockville on the effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy found that 50% of participants experienced a remission in depression symptoms within one week.


Researchers administered a single 25mg dose of psilocybin to 30 cancer patients with a major depressive disorder (MDD) diagnosis and under cancer treatment with no prior experience with psychedelic substances followed by psychological support by a trained therapist. Participants reported remission of MDD symptoms following a single dose and with effects sustaining for the 8-week follow-up period.


“It’s an exciting study for the team at Aquilino Cancer Center, my colleagues at COMPASS, and the mental health care and oncology communities. It is pioneering a new approach to the mental health problems of people living with cancer. It suggests that simultaneous administration of COMP360 psilocybin therapy appears to be well tolerated and feasible,” said Guy Goodwin the chief medical officer of COMPASS Pathways, according to Psychiatric Times. Goodwin is also an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford and a former WA Handley Chair of Psychiatry and head of the university’s Department of Psychiatry.


The study followed a 3-stage preparatory, administration, and integration model. In the preparatory stage, the therapist and patient work together to identify the symptoms and prepare for the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of the administration. The administration stage involves 6-8 hours of experiencing the effects of the medicine under supervision by the therapist. During the integration stage, the therapist helps the participant process and help interpret the meaning and significance of the experience.



“This makes it the first clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of psilocybin therapy with simultaneous administration to several patients and 1-on-1 psychological support,” said Goodwin.


"Patients in this study received COMP360, a synthesized formulation of psilocybin, the active ingredient in some species of mushrooms known as “magic mushrooms.”3 The drug received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the US Food and Drug Administration in February 2018.4 Importantly, as neither participants nor raters were blinded to the selection of treatment, the researchers acknowledged that the results might have been influenced by expectancy bias." reported Psychiatric Times.


Improving MDD treatment options for cancer patients is of special interest because research has demonstrated poorer prognosis in patients with cancer and MDD. Cancer patients are also at a higher risk for suicide ideation and action. A holistic approach to cancer treatment must also take into account the mental health and well-being of the patients and acknowledge the profound impact of a cancer diagnosis on the mental health of individuals.


“We believe the results of this trial could contribute to transforming the way we help cancer patients cope with the psychological impact of their diagnosis. Improving the mental health of patients is the inspiration for everything we do.” Goodwin told Psychiatric Times.



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