Ingredient found in cannabis to be tested in fight against advanced cancers

By Daily Mail Reporter

28 September 2012

A cannabis-like drug is to be tested on  patients with advanced cancers by UK scientists.

The early stage trial will investigate the  potential of dexanabinol for treating a range of solid tumours.

A similar Phase I study looking at brain  cancer is already under way in the US. Results from both are expected next  year.

New hope? An ingredient found in cannabis is being trialled to treat cancersNew hope? An ingredient found in cannabis is being  trialled to treat cancers

Dexanabinol is from a family of compounds  called cannabinoids and related to the active chemicals in cannabis. However, it  is made in the laboratory and causes none of the psychological effects  associated with the drug.

Lead researcher Professor Ruth Plummer, from  the University of Newcastle, said: ‘The starting point for this trial was to map  networks of proteins that appear to have a role in cancer, identify points at  which these networks could be disrupted, and then see if there were existing  drugs to target these points.

‘It was this novel approach – known as  network pharmacology – that first highlighted the potential cancer-fighting  properties of dexanabinol, which was originally developed to treat patients with  severe head injuries. While this certainly illustrates that there may be  compounds with real therapeutic potential related to those found in cannabis, it  also points to the importance of applying rigorous scientific methods when  selecting molecules that might have potential as cancer  treatments.

Testing times; Scientists will be analysing whether a cannabis-like drug can be used to treat some forms of cancerTesting times; Scientists will be analysing whether a  cannabis-like drug can be used to treat some forms of cancer

‘This is a Phase I trial, so the main aim  will be to establish what dose is safe and assess any side effects. But we’ll  also be looking out to see what effect, if any, the drug has on the patient’s  cancer.’

Around 45 patients are being recruited to  take part in the trial. All will have advanced solid tumours that cannot be  helped by further existing treatment.

The study is being funded by the drug’s  manufacturer, UK-based e-Therapeutics.

It will be based at the Cancer Research UK  and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Experimental Cancer Medicine  Centre in Newcastle.

Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK’s  director of centres, said: ‘The potential anticancer properties of chemicals  found in cannabis were first touched on by scientists in the  1970s.

‘But it’s only now that we have robust  laboratory evidence in place, alongside reliable techniques for manufacturing  safe and practical drugs related to these chemicals, that we’re at the crucial  stage of being able to embark on trials in cancer patients.

‘It’s the job of the Experimental Cancer  Medicine Network to help speed up the journey of new drugs from the bench to the  bedside and we’re delighted to be supporting some of the first steps towards  hopefully turning this painstaking research into new treatments that could  benefit patients.’

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