A clinical trial funded by the New South Wales government will test the efficacy and safety of cannabis on the side effects caused by chemotherapy.
The world’s first clinical trial of cannabis for chemotherapy patients has begun in Australia, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. The trials will be conducted by researchers at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and in partnership with the University of Sydney, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and other major cancer centers in New South Wales, Australia.
Used as the primary treatment for cancer, chemotherapy often causes what are sometimes serious side effects, including fever and chills, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and pain. The severity and type of side effects varies from person to person, but for some they can be debilitating and force them to cut treatment efforts short.
“We have come a long way with conventional anti-nausea medication, but one-third of patients continue to suffer during and after chemotherapy,” lead researcher and Associate Professor Peter Grimison at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Previous research indicates that cannabis is effective for reducing the nausea, vomiting and pain associated with chemotherapy treatments. Studies have also shown cannabis to be beneficial for reducing weight loss by stimulating appetite and improving the taste of food.
Grimison’s randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial will recruit 80 patients for stage one and an additional 250 patients for stage two. Patients will be given an oral cannabis substance containing both cannabidiol (CBD) and small levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
“The role of cannabis medicines in alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is still unclear, and this study aims to provide a definitive answer to this question,” Grimison said.
Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward told The Sydney Morning Herald that an evidence-based trial examining cannabis’ efficacy is necessary for establishing the plant-based substance as a safe and effective treatment for patients.
“The trial will play a critical role in developing a better understanding of how cannabis products may provide relief for cancer patients,” Goward told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s amazing to think that people have been talking about this for 30 years and yet there has been no real investment in putting it up. It’s come down to NSW to be a world leader.”
The study is being financed by a pioneering initiative by the NSW government, which provided $21 million in funding for medical cannabis clinical trials and reforms.
“I am just hopeful this will make the difference so many people claim it will make. It’s time to get to the bottom of it,” Goward said. “These patients often lose a phenomenal amount of weight through the vomiting and the nausea. They’re often very, very sick, and this is a time they really need their strength.”
Lauren Hew, a 32-year old primary school teacher from the city of Marsfield, will be one of the participants of the clinical trial. Hew suffers from nausea and vomiting so severe that she often has to be hospitalized following sessions. She has two young children who she protects from seeing her suffer from the vomiting episodes.
“I need my children to remember me as a happy mum that did things with them and took them to the park and the zoo while I’m here, because if things get worse I won’t get to do that with them,” Hew told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Even if it doesn’t work for me,” Hew added. “It will be enough to know I was part of the trial and to know it could work for someone else.”
Read the entire report from The Sydney Morning Herald here.