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World-first trial: Could this cannabis-based mouth spray treat brain tumours?

It is one of three cannabis-based medicines already used by the National Health Service (NHS), and given to patients with multiple sclerosis.


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Scientists are to test whether a cannabis-based mouth spray is effective in treating aggressive brain tumours in a world-first UK-based trial.

Investigators will assess if adding GW Pharma’s Sativex to temozolomide, an existing chemotherapy medication, could extend life for thousands of people diagnosed with a recurrent glioblastoma.

Glioblastomas are the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, with around 2 200 people diagnosed each year in England. It almost always comes back, despite attempts to battle it with surgery and therapy. Average survival is less than 18 months from first diagnosis.

Promising results from initial study of cannabis mouth spray

Sativex is an oral spray containing the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). It is one of three cannabis-based medicines already used by the National Health Service (NHS), because it is given to patients with multiple sclerosis.

An initial study found promising results on 27 patients with glioblastomas, but the plan is to recruit more than 230 patients across the UK next year for an extended research project.

Cancer charities and the health service have come together to see if it can help with brain tumours. A total of 15 NHS hospitals are set to be involved in the trial at launch if the new three-year phase II trial can get funding.

Trial could pave the way for new lifeline

The Brain Tumour Charity launched an appeal to raise $630,000 (R8 million) to cover costs. The charity suspended its usual programme of research grants after losing 25% of its income due to COVID19.

Dr David Jenkinson, interim CEO at the charity, said:

“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.”

The trial is led by a team at the University of Leeds, funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, and co-ordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham.

If the trial proves successful, experts hope Sativex could represent one of the first additions to NHS treatment for glioblastoma patients since 2007.

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