Psilocybin and Breast Cancer

by | Oct 3, 2022 | Research

New research is suggesting psilocybin may help patients with breast cancer. Cancer is a tough battle. Not only does it put a physical strain on the patient, but it can also be emotionally and mentally draining. Patients undergoing cancer treatment often suffer from anxiety, depression, and end-of-life distress.

Psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in multiple species of  mushrooms, has shown promise in reducing anxiety and depression in cancer patients. This brings us to the question, could psilocybin also help with breast cancer? First, we look at what previous research says about psilocybin for breast cancer, before covering the newest research, with quotes from metastatic breast cancer patient, Nicole DiMonda, and one of her physicians, Dr. Dustin Sulak.

Can Psilocybin Help Breast Cancer Patients?

A 2016 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that psilocybin helps reduce anxiety and depression in cancer patients. The study involved 12 participants who were suffering from various types of cancer, including breast cancer. 11 out of the 12 participants were women. To be involved in the study, participants were also required to have a diagnosis of actor stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to cancer, or adjustment disorder with anxiety.

The participants all reported experiencing reduced anxiety and depression after taking psilocybin. In some cases, the positive mental-health effects of psilocybin lasted well beyond the final treatments.

Researchers concluded, “this study demonstrates that the careful and controlled use of psilocybin may provide an alternative model for the treatment of conditions that are often minimally responsive to conventional therapies, including the profound existential anxiety and despair that often accompany advanced-stage cancers”.

Low-Dose Psilocybin For Breast Cancer

Another study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that psilocybin may also help reduce end-of-life anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancers. The study involved 51 terminally ill patients with various types of life-threatening cancer. The patients all reported improvements in anxiety and depression levels after taking small doses of psilocybin accompanied by psychotherapy. Researchers noted that the beneficial effects of psilocybin lasted for at least 6 months after the initial dose. 

“When administered under psychologically supportive, double-blind conditions, a single dose of psilocybin produced substantial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality of life and decreases in death anxiety in patients with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. Ratings by patients themselves, clinicians, and community observers suggested these effects endured at least 6 months”.

New Research on Psilocybin and Breast Cancer

The research on psilocybin and breast cancer is still in its early stages, but the results so far have been promising. Previous research has sparked a wave of new research, and a study on integrating psilocybin as part of treatment for metastatic breast cancer was recently published in the journal of Drug Science, Policy and Law.

The case involved a 49-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which progressed to include her bones, liver, and lymph nodes. Her treatment included standard care of targeted chemotherapy and a ketogenic diet. This treatment was supplemented with “cannabinoid-based therapy, consisting initially of a titrated high-dose protocol of mixed cannabidiol (CBD) and d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) chemotypes, as well as psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy at macro and intermittent micro-doses”.

“At the end of the five-month treatment period PET/CT investigations revealed no evidence of metastatic disease and chemotherapy was withdrawn. A one year follow up CT investigation concluded no evidence of residual or recurrent disease.”

The name of the woman in this study is Nicole DiMonda. When asked about participating in the study, Nicole had this to say,

“In September 2018, I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. My first thought was, ‘what am I going to tell my mother?’ I immediately began incorporating cannabis into my daily treatment plan. By January 2019, I was found to have no evidence of disease according to my scans. This was absolutely unexpected. When one is diagnosed with cancer, the mental, physical and emotional events which consume and slowly chip away at ones humanity become a daily routine. Everything changes in a heartbeat, and suddenly death becomes your daily counterpart. It’s dehumanizing, demoralizing, and just plain horrific. Cannabis changes all of this. It will ease the suffering of so many, as it eased mine. Cannabis provides hope. It provides help when you feel you can’t go on. I was able to eat. I was able to sleep. The nausea was almost non-existent. I could function. I could work. I was no longer slave to my disease. Imagine a world that embraces cannabis as a true medicinal plant that heals those afflicted with illness. That is the hope cannabis provides. It heals. It restores. It gives life. And access should NEVER be in question.”

Although the initial results of the study were positive, recurrence of the disease was noted at a scheduled 18-month follow-up. “Over these 18 months the cannabis regimen was titrated down to 60% of the initial protocol”.

The study’s researchers believe that the reduction in cannabinoid-based therapy and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is what may have prompted the recurrence of the disease. Several statements about the study were made in a recent press release.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, one of Nicole’s physicians, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, an Integrative Medicine Specialist, medical cannabis expert, and the Founder of Integr8 Health, says, “We are collaborating clinically with cancer patients intervening using cannabis and psilocybin. They are invaluable; and witnessing their impact has been profound. They can improve the patient’s quality of life, relieve pain, depression, and anxiety while promoting psychological adaptation to a challenging diagnosis and prognosis. They may also enhance our innate anti-cancer mechanisms and work additively or synergistically with other treatments.”

Dr. Sulak continues, “Based on my clinical experience, all patients with cancer can significantly benefit in some way from the appropriate use of cannabis and psilocybin. In the future, including these will be the standard of care; they both have safety profiles. While the research community is focused on the therapeutic effects in treating psychiatric conditions, Nicole’s case shows they impact physical conditions like cancer.”

With previous research indicating psilocybin to be beneficial for psychiatric conditions, and new research showing an impact on physical conditions, there is hope for the future of patients searching for solutions. Future research on psilocybin and breast cancer, along with other cancers, will help us learn more about the different therapeutic applications of these plant-based substances.