Psilocybin therapy for patients with cancer and major depressive disorder appears to provide sustainable improvements in symptoms
Major depressive disorder affects around 14.3% of patients with cancer. Advances in psycho-oncology show that psychotropic drugs are effective for cancer patients. There is some data suggesting that psilocybin therapy for cancer patients improves depressed mood and anxiety. Whether this effect occurs in cancer patients with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD) is not clear.
In the current study, researchers gave adult cancer patients and a diagnosis of MDD, a single 25 mg dose of psilocybin. Individuals were divided into cohorts and had a single group preparation session and two group integration sessions. Therapeutic care was provided throughout the study using the 1:1 model of psychological support. Researchers assessed the safety of psilocybin therapy and the effect on depression with the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS).
Psilocybin therapy outcomes
The study had 30 patients, all with MDD and assessments carried out after 8 weeks. The study observed a robust and significant decrease in MADRS score (p < 0.0001) at week 8 with a ≥ 50% decrease in the MADRS score in 24 patients at week 8. Half of the group had complete remission of depression symptoms (a MADRS score < 10) after 7 days which was still present at week 8.
Self-reported depressive symptom scores were 48% lower at week 8. The Maudsley visual analogue scale was 53% lower at week 8. There were no treated-related serious adverse effects reported.
Agrawal M et al. Assessment of Psilocybin Therapy for Patients With Cancer and Major Depression Disorder. JAMA Oncol 2023