A first-ever study seeks to discover if Sativex can be successful in treating glioblastoma. One of three cannabis-based medicines in use in the NHS, Sativex is currently given to patients with multiple sclerosis whose condition has not improved despite treatment, in order to reduce their spasticity (an abnormal increase in muscle tone or stiffness of muscle).
The new study is being coordinated by Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials unit at Birmingham University. “It is vital that trials like this, investigating the role cannabis or the chemicals in it can play to treat cancer, are carried out,” said Prof. Pam Kearns, the unit’s director.
Susan Short, a professor of clinical oncology and neuro-oncology at Leeds University, is the principal investigator of the study. “We think that Sativex may kill glioblastoma tumor 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 tumors growing, allowing patients to live longer, said Short. “That is what we want to test in the study.”
The Brain Tumour Charity is funding the trial and will recruit 232 patients early next year from at least 15 hospitals. Two-thirds will receive Sativex and temozolomide while the other third will be given the chemotherapy drug and a placebo.
“The recent early-stage findings were really promising and we now look forward to understanding whether adding Sativex to chemotherapy could offer life extension and improved quality of life, which would be a major step forward in our ability to treat this devastating disease,” said Dr. David Jenkinson, the Brain Tumour Charity’s interim chief executive.
“It showed that this combination was safe, although some patients had problems with side-effects including sickness, tiredness, and dizziness,” said Short. “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.”
“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,” said Jenkinson.