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Developments in Cannabis Cancer Research

By Alexander Beadle
Published: Oct 08, 2018   
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Cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds have long been investigated for their potential medicinal applications. As well as examining its potential use as an anti-epilepsy and anti-inflammatory medication, cannabis has also been investigated for use as an anti-cancer agent.

One of the companies pioneering the research and development of functional cannabinoid medicines in the treatment of cancer is Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Inc. A recent press release from the company reported the return of positive results in one of their pre-clinical studies investigating the interaction of cannabinoids and cancer cells.

We sat down with Dr. Eyal Ballan, the CTO and co-founder of Cannabics, to discuss these findings further.

Alexander Beadle (AB): What is your vision for Cannabics Pharmaceuticals?

Dr. Eyal Ballan (EB): My personal aim is to assist in curing or prolonging the life of cancer patients, while also improving quality of life during and after cancer treatment. As a company we are focused on producing quality research into cannabinoid compounds that show good potential for cancer-fighting properties.

AB: Cannabics have recently announced some exciting pre-clinical results in the use of cannabinoids as an anti-cancer treatment. Are you able to give us a brief overview of the methods used in this study?

EB: The study itself is still ongoing at our research and development center in Israel. Our scientists are studying a growing library of different cannabinoid compounds and testing the effects of these cannabinoids on dozens of distinct cancer types. This is done through an automated drug screening process which enables us to develop images of cancer cells taken from human biopsies and compare these to similar images taken after the cells are exposed to the cannabinoids.

From the comparison of these images, we can see the extent of any cancer cell proliferation or cancer cell death and therefore judge the effectiveness of our cannabinoid treatments.

An example of the screening images obtained in the study. Here, a cannabinoid compound (C) is shown to reduce the number of active cells in a sample compared to chemotherapy drugs (A,B).

AB: Are there any early indications of how effective these cannabinoids are compared to traditional chemotherapy?

EB: Our in vitro results certainly show promise. Due to the heterogeneity of cancer, we expect that effectiveness could vary significantly between different types of cancer; but we do feel that our results show a real possibility of effectiveness, and we are hoping for this to be authenticated in future studies.

AB: What type of cancers do you expect your cannabinoid treatment to be useful for?

Our immediate primary focus is on improving existing treatments that are available to cancer patients through personalized of cannabinoid treatments. By controlling cannabinoid profiles, THC/CBD ratios, dosages, and the treatment regimen we aim to achieve our goal of improving cancer patient quality of life during and after treatment. We expect that the development of proprietary compounds for the treatment of specific cancers is something that will come about naturally as a result of this process.

AB: Are there plans to move on to clinical trials and eventual commercialization? If so, are you anticipating any challenges?

EB: We are planning to validate the accuracy of our cannabinoid sensitivity tests through a full clinical study once our pre-clinical study is complete. As this is still a fairly new field of research, the challenges that come in this field are mainly regulatory. The field therefore combines the usual regulatory boundaries that come with investigating botanical compounds, with those associated with cancer research and data-driven therapy.

AB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

EB: I just wish to say that I feel lucky to be involved in the scientific effort to fairly establish the clinical validity of cannabinoid medicine in the face of the challenges and stigma the field experiences.

Dr. Eyal Ballan is the co-founder and CTO at Cannabics Pharmaceuticals Inc, holding a Ph.D. in Neurophysiology, Brain Waves and Cortical Connectivity in Attention and an M.Sc. in anticancer drug development.

An experienced entrepreneur, Eyal is involved in diverse projects with a common vision of finding solutions seeded in research, this includes his work as part of the renowned research team, which developed Salirasib (a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer).


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