• How One Man Beat Schizophrenia and Cancer

    by Caroline Ryther
    on Oct 4th, 2018

He was 23 when he first began to experience delusions, believing that other people could hear his “leaking” thoughts. In a very short period of time, he started suffering from insomnia, irritability, and anxiety, while his delusions and paranoia worsened.

Not long after that, the man was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by Dr. Tsuyoshi Miyaoka, who was his psychiatrist at the Shimane University School of Medicine in Japan. However, after a series of antipsychotic drugs didn’t help, his diagnosis was changed to treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

A year later, the man began exhibiting new symptoms, which included fatigue, fever, joint pain, gingival bleeding, and shortness of breath. After performing detailed examinations, the Department of Hematology of Shimane University Hospital diagnosed the man with acute myeloid leukemia. It was decided that he would need a bone-marrow transplant to survive, but it was what happened following the procedure that surprised not only Dr. Miyaoka, but the whole world.

Namely, 30 days after the bone-marrow transplant, the man’s psychotic symptoms all but disappeared. It’s now been years since the procedure and, according to Dr. Miyaoka, his patient no longer takes any medication and shows no psychiatric symptoms whatsoever.

As difficult as it may seem to grasp, the bone-marrow transplant actually cured the man’s leukemia. The only questions that remains is: how?

The Link Between the Immune System and the Brain

Over the years, more and more experts have begun to believe that the immune system is tightly linked with a range of psychiatric disorders—from depression to bipolar disorder. A recent case study goes into detail about a woman, whose psychotic symptoms (schizoaffective disorder) disappeared after recovering from a severe infection accompanied by a high fever.

The theory about the immune system and the brain actually dates back to the 19th century, when physicians noticed that fevers from various infections were what ultimately helped some mentally ill (even catatonic patients) get better. And while there are other possible reasons for Dr. Miyaoka patient’s recovery (from the drugs he was taking at the time to the paraneoplastic syndrome), the whole situation implies that his immune system was what was directly responsible for the disappearance of leukemia.

However, despite there being a number of case studies linking the immune system (and autoimmune diseases) with psychiatric disorders, we are a long way from establishing whether this theory is completely correct and finding a way to use it in practice. And even if the this idea pans out, we need to remember that the bone-marrow transplant is a risky procedure that’s highly unlikely to become a widespread treatment for schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

There have been other successful attempts at treating psychiatric disorders that are not as aggressive as the bone-marrow transplant. A decade ago, Dr. Miyaoka gave two schizophrenic patients an old drug for acne called minocycline, and both patients normalized while taking it. Dr. Yolken of Johns Hopkins and his colleagues used probiotics to treat manic patients over a period of somewhat more than 24 weeks. They found that patients who took probiotics with their regular medication had lower chances of being rehospitalized.

A New Hope for Patients with Psychiatric Disorders

When it comes to the link between the immune system and the central nervous systems, we’ve barely scratched the surface. There is still plenty of work to be done in this area, but the story of the man who beat schizophrenia and cancer (and other similar stories) will bring hope to psychiatric disorder patients from all over the world.

Some time ago, a psychiatric disorder would mean one of two things: institutionalization or nothing short of a death sentence. Now, by treating the patients’ immune system first and foremost, there’s a high chance for them to fully recover. All that we have to do is see everything will play out and keep looking forward to a future in which depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia could be cured by improving the immune system.


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Phone: 847-306-8938

Email: pm@mind.md

Author Caroline Ryther

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