Australian researchers launch world’s first clinical trial to treat brain cancer with medical cannabis

  • Researchers in Australia became first in world to investigate THC as brain cancer treatment in a clinical trial
  • Brain cancers have some of the lowest survival rates
  • Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common type of malignant brain tumour in the UK
  • Over 2,000 are diagnosed with GBM each year in England
  • Research started back in October 2018

Researchers in Australia launched the world’s first clinical trial last year on medical cannabis and brain cancer last year, investigating the potential cannabinoids have in slowing the growth of glioblastoma, a highly aggressive type of brain tumour.

While research into the efficacy of CBD and THC into treating various cancers already exist, Dr. Janet Schloss and renowned neurosurgeon Professor Charlie Teo became the first to study the effectiveness of THC, in a practical application, as a complementary treatment to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery for brain cancer patients, particularly those with glioblastoma.

The pair want to determine whether full-spectrum cannabis oil, high in THC, not just CBD, has the potential to help improve current cancer treatments.

Previous research, conducted here in the UK by Dr. Wai Lu at St. George’s University London, has already found evidence that cannabinoids alongside chemotherapy are a more effective treatment for cancer.

The research from Dr Schloss and Prof. Teo, however, is the first time in the world THC has been used in a clinical trial for brain cancer research. They hope to reproduce results from in-vitro research conducted on cannabinoids and cancer, finding more conclusive evidence that THC can help reduce tumours and tumour regrowth.

Reducing tumour regrowth can be vital in increasing survival rates, which are currently extremely low for brain cancer patients.

In the UK, only 14% of patients with brain tumours survive for 10 or more years.

What we’re really hoping for is to be able to see that the medicinal cannabis aids and assists the standard treatments in reducing tumours, in reducing regrowth, and increasing the person’s end of life quality.
– Dr. Janet Schloss, lead researcher

The clinical trial is being conducted at the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Australia.

The study itself will involve a randomised trial, where every participant will be provided cannabinoid-based treatments (high in THC) alongside their current cancer treatments, over a 12 week period.

Participants will consume small doses, 2ml of cannabis oil, at night just before bed; the THC content has been limited so that patients won’t have issues waking up or getting to sleep.

BioCeuticals, one of Australia’s leading providers of nutritional and therapeutic supplements, have provided the cannabis oil, specifically manufactured for this glioblastoma study.

Speaking to 4BC, Dr. Scholss explained what they are hoping to achieve from the clinical trial:

“What we’re really hoping for is to be able to see that the medicinal cannabis aids and assists the standard treatments in reducing tumours, in reducing regrowth, and increasing the person’s end of life quality.”

“There’s over 1,000 a year diagnosed with GBM in Australia alone. The survival rate is usually less than a year.. some people can be gone within 6 months.

So, something that we can find which helps reduce the tumour growth, as well as decreasing the risk of regrowth, will make a big difference to so many people’s lives.”

Research on the potential medicinal applications of cannabinoids has increased in Australia following a rescheduling of cannabis in 2017, similar to the recent reclassification in the UK.

Previously, research into cannabis, in both the UK and Australia, could only be conducted if it was investigating the side-effects of the plant when used as a recreational drug.

With more research, we are gaining more and more evidence that cannabis has great potential to be used alongside current treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

There is already a bounty of anecdotal and preliminary evidence that cannabinoids can help treat cancers, in particular helping to improve the quality of life in terminal cancer patients.

Hopefully, the research conducted by Schloss and Teo will help improve the survival rates of brain cancer patients.

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