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Cancer Anxiety Study in Los Angeles

November 30, 2007
by Alicia Danforth, Study Coordinator and Recent Survivor

If you have anxiety associated with advanced cancer (which has not spread to your brain or central nervous system), we are looking for patients to be in a new study taking place at The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA.
The significance of this study is that it is addressing the important issues of psychological and spiritual well being of people who have advanced cancer. In 2001, the National Cancer Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council issued a report (Improving Palliative Care for Cancer: Summary and Recommendations) that specifically recommended research be conducted using novel agents and methods. Psilocybin is a novel agent which produces a profound alteration in your state of consciousness. It is the main active ingredient found in “magic mushrooms”. 
Our specific aim is to learn whether this psychoactive drug, psilocybin, might be effective in reducing anxiety, depression and physical pain, and therefore improving your quality of life. This pilot study will start with 12 people ages 18-70. For each participant there will be two overnight admissions to the hospital. In one session you will be given a placebo and in the other you will get the active medication, but no one will know which drug is administered when. This is called a double blind study. You will be asked to fill out questionnaires about how you feel, your pain levels and your moods. There will also be at least two psychotherapy meetings before the study sessions, so that you are fully aware of what to expect and to have all your questions answered.
We cannot take you in the study if you have central nervous system (CNS) cancers, kidney disease, diabetes, abnormal liver function tests, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease including untreated  high blood pressure (BP greater than 140/90), and pregnancy. The psychiatric exclusions are: you or an immediate family member with a history of a major psychiatric disorder, a current substance abuse problem, or an anxiety or a mood disorder within 1 year prior to the onset of symptoms of your current illness.
We also cannot take you in the study if you are taking certain medications, such as: anti-seizure, insulin and oral hypoglycemics, and cardiovascular drugs. Some antidepressant (SSRIs) medications cannot be taken within the two weeks prior to the session. (Except for Prozac, which cannot be taken in the last 5 weeks prior to the session.)
You will get a MRI of the brain prior to admission (if you haven’t  had one in the prior two months), at the study’s expense, to be sure there is no CNS involvement. You can provide us, or the study will pay for, lab work from the prior 2 weeks (CBC, liver function and renal function). The history and physical, neurological exam, EKG, and a urine pregnancy test (if you are a woman with child-bearing potential), will be done on admission by the house staff doctors.

You will be allowed to take your own medications while in the hospital, and will be encouraged to bring to the hospital personal photos, small memorabilia, and some of your favorite music that can be played during the sessions.


For further information, please call Alicia Danforth
at 310-222-3175





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