Cannabis News: First-Ever Human Trial To Test Medical Cannabis As Brain Cancer Therapy
by Craig Wasserman
A cannabis-based mouth spray is set to be tested as a potential treatment for an aggressive form of brain tumor called glioblastoma, marking the first-ever major human trial involving medical cannabis as a cancer therapy. Known as Sativex, the spray is already approved for use as a treatment for muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis, and pre-clinical investigations have indicated that it is well tolerated by glioblastoma patients.
Much has been written about the possible anti-cancer properties of certain cannabinoids, with several studies on cultured cells and animals indicating that some of the compounds found in marijuana may prevent the development of tumors. However, without data from human trials, it is impossible to say whether or not medical cannabis really can help in the fight against cancer.
Led by Professor Susan Short from the University of Leeds, the new study will involve 232 glioblastoma patients from 15 hospitals in the UK, two-thirds of whom will receive Sativex in addition to a chemotherapy drug called temozolomide, while the remaining third will be given a placebo in place of the cannabis-based medication.
Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain tumor, and also the most aggressive. Such tumors tend to grow very quickly and spread to many parts of the brain, and frequently recur even after treatment. On average, patients live for less than 18 months following their initial diagnosis.
In a statement, Professor Short explained that “Glioblastoma brain tumors have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surfaces, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumor growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide.”
Indeed, a 2011 study found that the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) dramatically inhibit the growth of gliomas in petri dishes and in live mice, when administered in combination with temozolomide. Importantly, tumor cells that could not be treated by the chemotherapy drug alone were defeated when these two cannabinoids were added to the equation.