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New Trial Will Test if a Cannabis Spray Can Treat Aggressive Brain Tumors

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Aug 03, 2021   
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A new clinical trial in the UK will investigate whether the cannabis-based oral spray Sativex can help treat a type of brain tumor.

Coordinated across 15 National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and funded by the Brain Tumour Charity, the phase II trial aims to begin in early 2022 with 232 participants.

Two thirds of the participants will be given a combination of temozolomide chemotherapy and Sativex to treat their glioblastomas, while one third will be given temozolomide and a placebo.

The hope is that the 1:1 THC and CBD spray will help improve the chemotherapy treatment and extend the patients’ lives or improve their quality of life.

One spray in the membrane

Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. Available treatments include surgery and chemotherapy, but most diagnosed with the disease only live for a further 12 to 18 months.

Several pre-clinical lab studies have found that THC and CBD can reduce brain tumor cell growth, but evidence from patient trials has been lacking.

“Glioblastoma brain tumours have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surfaces, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide,” Susan Short, a professor of clinical oncology at the University of Leeds and principal investigator on the new trial, said in a statement.

Professor Short previously helped conduct a phase I clinical trial of 27 glioblastoma patients, published earlier this year in the British Journal of Cancer. That research found that patients given Sativex had a higher survival rate one year on from the beginning of the trial than those who had been given a placebo. Encouraged by the results, Short and her colleagues progressed with the new phase II trial.

“Having recently shown that a specific cannabinoid combination given by oral spray could be safely added to temozolomide chemotherapy, we’re really excited to build on these findings to assess whether this drug could help glioblastoma patients live longer in a major randomised trial,” she added.

During the trial, participants will be asked to spray the Sativex solution (or the placebo) in their mouths 12 times a day. They will then undergo follow-up assessment every four weeks, which will include blood tests, MRI scans, and quality of life questionnaires.

“With so few treatments available and average survival still so heartbreakingly short, thousands affected by a glioblastoma in the UK each year are in urgent need of new options and new hope,” David Jenkinson, interim CEO at the Brain Tumour Charity, which is funding the trial, said in a statement.

“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.”


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