Cannabis-based drug to be used in brain tumour trial by University of Leeds scientist
A Leeds scientist has hailed “exciting” plans for a major trial of a cannabis-based drug in treating an aggressive form of brain tumour.
The Brain Tumour Charity has launched an appeal to help raise £450,000 needed to fund the new three-year trial, which is due to begin recruiting some 232 patients at 15 hospitals across the UK early next year.
The study, led by an expert at the University of Leeds and co-ordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham, will look at whether adding Sativex – an oral spray containing cannabinoids – to chemotherapy could extend life for people diagnosed with a recurrent glioblastoma.
Researchers said the condition, which is the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer with around 2,200 people diagnosed each year in England alone, currently has an average survival of less than 10 months.
If the trial proves successful, they hope it could represent one of the first additions to NHS treatment for glioblastoma patients in more than a decade.
It will measure whether adding Sativex to chemotherapy extends the overall length of patients’ lives, delays the progression of their disease, or improves quality of life.
Professor Susan Short, professor of clinical oncology and neuro-oncology at the University of Leeds, said: “It’s really exciting that we’re now at the point where we can run a definitive, well-designed study that will tell us the answer to whether these agents could help treat the most aggressive form of brain tumour.
“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.”
Dr David Jenkinson, interim chief executive at The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “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.
“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.”
Professor Pam Kearns, director of the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham, said: “Our mission at the CRCTU is to translate cutting-edge science and research into improved patient care by identifying novel therapies that will save lives.
“It is vital that trials like this, investigating the role cannabis or the chemicals in it can play to treat cancer, are carried out.”