Stats show that brain tumours kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer. The most aggressive form of brain tumour (glioblastoma) forms in the brain or spinal cord and affects around 2,200 people every year in England alone. Typical prognosis for people with this type of brain tumour is 12 to 18 months from the date of first diagnosis. So it is with anticipation that we welcome research into a new drug which hopes to extend the life of those diagnosed with aggressive brain tumours such as glioblastoma.
The trials will study 232 patients at 15 hospitals across the UK and will look at an oral spray containing cannabinoids called Sativex. At the moment Sativex can only be prescribed on the NHS for multiple sclerosis sufferers because studies have shown that it reduces spasticity caused by the disease. It will be interesting to see if it can also have a positive effect on reducing brain tumours and provide some hope to the thousands of sufferers of this dangerous type of cancer. So far there have been suggestions that CBD could slow the growth of brain tumours and help to interrupt the blood supply to tumours, but more clinical evidence is required before this can be used as a treatment.
Stephen Lee, a 62-year old brain tumour patient who trialled Sativex in 2016, said,
“I took the oral spray 10 times a day, and it was easy as I could take it wherever we were going, even while out for dinner. While I don’t know whether I had Sativex or the placebo, since the trial finished in 2016, all my MRI scans have been clear”.
The study will be coordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham. If the clinical trials are able to go ahead, two-thirds of participants will be given Sativex, and a third given a placebo, up to 12 times per day. Patients will receive monthly clinical assessments, MRI scans and blood tests every two months, and will also complete questionnaires relating to their quality of life.
The trials will look at whether this spray, when combined with chemotherapy, will extend patients’ lives, slow the progression of the cancer, or improve the quality of life. Hopefully all three. We await the results with anticipation.