Antidepressants require several weeks for the onset of action, a lag time that may exceed life expectancy in palliative care. Ketamine has demonstrated rapid antidepressant effects, but has been minimally studied in cancer and palliative care populations. Herein, the objective was to determine the feasibility, safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of intranasal racemic ketamine for major depressive disorder (MDD) in patients with advanced cancer. We conducted a single-arm, open-label phase II trial at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. Participants with advanced cancer with moderate to severe MDD received three flexible doses of intranasal (IN) ketamine (50-150 mg) over a one-week period. The primary efficacy outcome was an antidepressant response and remission rates as determined by the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) from baseline to the Day 8 primary endpoint. Twenty participants were enrolled in the trial, receiving at least one dose of IN ketamine, with fifteen participants receiving all three doses. The Day 8 antidepressant response (MADRS decreased by >50%) and remission (MADRS < 10 on Day 8) rates were high at 70% and 45%, respectively. Mean MADRS scores decreased significantly from baseline (mean MADRS of 31, standard deviation 7.6) to Day 8 (11 +/- 7.4) with an overall decrease of 20 points ( < 0.001). Antidepressant effects were partially sustained in the second week in the absence of additional ketamine doses, with a Day 14 mean MADRS score of 14 +/- 9.9. Common adverse effects included fatigue, dissociation, nausea, dysgeusia and headaches; almost all adverse effects were mild and transient, resolving within 2 h of each ketamine dose with one dropout related to adverse effects (negative dissociative episode). Given these promising findings, larger, controlled trials are merited.