Dr. John Halpern of Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital submitted a protocol for review to the McLean Institutional Review Board (IRB) for a MAPS-sponsored study of MDMA in the treatment of anxiety in advanced stage cancer patients. After years of laying the groundwork for this study, and months of protocol development, we have now formally begun the effort to open a new area of research for MDMA and to restart psychedelic research at Harvard for the first time since 1965. If the McLean IRB approves the study, the protocol will then go to the IRB at Lahey Clinic, where oncologist and co-investigator Dr. Todd Shuster works and from where the subjects will be referred into the study, and then on to FDA. We anticipate that this study will take three to six months to become fully approved and hope to start treating the first subjects in late 2004 or early 2005.
Before MDMA was criminalized in 1985, several psychiatrists and therapists worked with cancer patients with MDMA with positive results in terms of reduced anxiety and pain. In the 1960s and early 1970s, LSD was also used successfully in the psychotherapeutic treatment of cancer patients. MAPS work to resume this line of research at Harvard represents an extremely important effort to start a new era of psychedelic research, at a culturally symbolic place where many people think psychedelic research went off the track, evidenced by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) being kicked out of Harvard in 1963. After almost 40 years in the proverbial wilderness, its time for psychedelic research to return to Harvard!