Magic mushrooms treat depression, anxiety felt by cancer patients; Merck wins a speedy review schedule for latest Keytruda initiative

Psilocybin variety.

Psilocybin variety.

Yesterday’s story about the potential use of an illicit drug for a neuropsychiatric condition focused on MDMA (ecstasy) for post-traumatic stress disorder. Today we got word of two small studies that explored the powerful impact of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) in combatting depression and anxiety among cancer patients. Not only did the psychedelic drug do the trick for most of the patients, improving a sense of well-being and satisfaction, many also felt it was one of the most valuable experiences of their lives. And the treatment effect lasted a bullishly long six months from a single dose.

The FDA won’t be dragging its heels over Merck’s latest effort to expand the use of its checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda. The agency granted the pharma giant a priority review for its supplemental BLA to use Keytruda against refractory classical Hodgkin lymphoma or for patients who have relapsed after three or more prior lines of therapy. Merck is also armed with a breakthrough drug designation for this indication as well.

Pfizer is signing on to use IBM’s Watson for some machine learning input on its immuno-oncology work. Researchers hope that masses of data will help point them to new ways to spur an immune response to cancer.

Cambridge, MA-based BluePrint Medicines got a boost in its share price after it released some early-stage proof-of-concept data for its drug BLU-285, being tested for advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors, or GIST. Michael Heinrich, an investigator for the clinical trial, said: “Advanced GIST is a devastating illness, marked by rapid disease progression. Seeing tumor shrinkage in 14 out of 15 PDGFRα-driven GIST patients at this point in the study is notable. I am also excited to see tumor shrinkage in four out of the six KIT-driven GIST patients treated at the higher dose levels, indicating the potential for increased clinical activity as we continue to dose-escalate.”

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Biotech Investment Analyst
SV Health Investors Boston, MA
Research Scientist - Disease Biology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Cadent Therapeutics Cambridge, MA
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twoXAR Mountain View, CA

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