A cannabis-based mouth spray will be used in UK trials to see whether it will help patients with brain tumours live longer. In the first such study in the world, the Brain Tumour Charity is funding research that involves treatment involving a combination of Sativex and chemotherapy (temozolomide) to treat glioblastoma.
Treatment aims to prolong life for brain tumour patients
Glioblastoma is an aggressive and hard-to-treat form of brain tumour that almost always comes back, despite doctors using surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to tackle it. Those diagnosed only live for 12 to 18 months while those with a recurrent glioblastoma survive for just 10 months.
According to a report in The Guardian about 2,200 people in England are diagnosed every year with the condition, making it the commonest form of brain cancer.
Sativex is already given to patients with multiple sclerosis whose condition has not improved despite treatment, in order to reduce their spasticity. It is one of three cannabis-based medicines currently in use in the NHS.
“We think that Sativex may kill glioblastoma tumour cells and that it may be particularly effective when given with temozolomide chemotherapy, so it may enhance the effects of chemotherapy treatment in stopping these tumours growing, allowing patients to live longer, said Susan Short, a professor of clinical oncology and neuro-oncology at Leeds University, who is the principal investigator of the study. “That is what we want to test in the study,” she said.
Sativex: a combo of Delta 9 THC and CBD
Sativex contains equal amounts of two cannabinoids: the psychoactive substance Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gives users a “high”, and cannabidiol (CBD), which can help reduce pain, inflammation and anxiety without inducing any psychoactive effects.
“We hope this trial could pave the way for a long-awaited new lifeline that could help offer glioblastoma patients precious extra months to live and make memories with their loved ones,” said Dr David Jenkinson, the Brain Tumour Charity’s interim chief executive.
“We know there is significant interest in our community about the potential activity of cannabinoids in treating glioblastomas, and we’re really excited that this world-first trial here in the UK could help to accelerate these answers.”
The new study is being coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials unit at Birmingham university. “It is vital that trials like this, investigating the role cannabis or the chemicals in it can play to treat cancer, are carried out,” said Prof Pam Kearns, the unit’s director.