Ground-breaking UK medical trial to test whether a cannabis mouth spray can treat brain cancer

WRITTEN by SY

 | Last revised

Sep, 2021

A world-first trial aims to answer whether an oral cannabis spray can effectively treat brain tumours when combined with chemotherapy.

The trial, which various cancer charities and the NHS will conduct, will see doctors administer Sativex in combination with the chemotherapy drug, Temozolomide to determine whether they are more effective in treating an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

Sativex is a cannabis-based mouth spray that contains 25mg of Cannabidiol (CBD), 27mg of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 56mg of other cannabinoids. The cannabis medication is already used to reduce spasticity in people who have Multiple Sclerosis and whose condition hasn’t improved despite ongoing treatment.

“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, the principal investigator of the study. 

Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer that can form in the spinal column or brain and is notoriously difficult to treat. Glioblastomas are the most common form of primary brain cancer in Australia; however, the incidence is only 6.8 per 100,000.

The planned three-year trial will run off the back of an earlier phase one trial that evaluated the safety of Temozolomide and Sativex when used together. 

Susan Short said that the initial study indicated that the treatment could give patients extra life. More participants who consumed Sativex were alive a year later than those who received the placebo.

While brain cancer might be rare, it’s often hard to treat and has a high mortality rate. It’s promising to see that cannabis medicine, when used in combination with traditional therapies, may offer patients a novel cancer treatment.

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References

1. Denis Campbell , "Trial to test if cannabis-based mouth spray can treat brain tumours".
The Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/aug/03/trial-to-test-if-cannabis-based-mouth-spray-can-treat-brain-tumours.
2. TGA, "Product Information for Sativex (Nabixiomols)".
TGA.
https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/auspar-nabiximols-130927-pi.pdf.
3. Mayo Clinic, "Glioblastoma".
Mayo Clinic.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glioblastoma/cdc-20350148.
4. Rosalind L Jeffree , "Current management of cerebral gliomas".
Australian Journal of General Practice.
https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2020/april/current-management-of-cerebral-gliomas.

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