Cannabis-Based Sativex Mouth Spray To Treat Brain Tumors? Trial Gets Underway In England With Backing From National Health Services And Cancer Charities

Patients suffering from glioblastoma, the most common, deadly and extremely aggressive type of brain cancer, may have a chance of living longer if Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray, proves effective in treating recurrent brain tumors.

Cancer charities and the UK's National Health Services (NHS) are launching a study to determine whether Sativex combined with chemotherapy medication -temozolomide - can help kill glioblastoma tumor cells and extend the overall length of patients’ lives, reported The Guardian. It will be the first such study in the world.

The trial is being led by the University of Leeds and coordinated by a specialist research unit at the University of Birmingham.

Over 232 patients at 15 hospitals across the UK are expected to be recruited in early 2022.

Sativex was given the green light for use by the NHS in 2019 to treat muscle spasms linked to multiple sclerosis. Sativex, initially developed by GW Pharmaceuticals GWPH is a mix in equal parts of the psychoactive substance Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which helps reduce pain, inflammation and anxiety without psychoactive effects.

Participants will administer up to 12 squirts daily of either Sativex or placebo oral sprays as part of the trial.

The trial is being funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, which launched an appeal to raise £450,000 to finance the three-year project.

The Spray That Could Give Patients ‘Some Extra Life’

Susan Short, a professor of clinical oncology and neuro-oncology at Leeds University and the leading investigator of the study, believes that the combination of temozolomide chemotherapy and Sativex could stop tumors from growing.

“It showed that this combination was safe, although some patients had problems with side-effects including sickness, tiredness, and dizziness,” Short said. “The study was not designed to test whether Sativex was better in terms of survival. But it did suggest that some patients who had Sativex did better than expected and better than those who just had chemotherapy.”

Each year, around 2,200 patients in England are diagnosed with glioblastoma. In the U.S. it is estimated that more than 10,000 individuals succumb to glioblastoma every year.  

Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma usually have 12 to 18 months to live and those suffering from recurrent glioblastoma survive for less than a year.

Photo: Courtesy of Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

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