Cannabis drug trial for brain tumours, backed by Olympian Tom Daley, secures research funding

The phase II trials of cannabis-based drug Sativex in treating the most aggressive form of brain cancer will begin in early 2022.

Sam Riches 3 minute read November 25, 2021

FILE: Tom Daley of Team Great Britain knits during the Men's 3m Springboard Preliminary Round on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Aug. 02, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. / Clive Rose/Getty Images

Following a phase I trial that demonstrated promising results in treating the most aggressive form of brain cancer with a cannabis-based drug, phase II trials are set to begin in March 2022.

The trial will build on previous research in treating recurrent glioblastoma with chemotherapy and Sativex, an oral spray containing 1:1 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Funding for the University of Leeds-led trial was secured by The Brain Tumour Charity, a U.K.-based organization.

Earlier this year, the charity announced it was seeking to raise £450,000 ($785,000) needed to fund the trial over a three-year period. Within three months of that announcement, the fundraising was complete.

“We know there has been significant interest among patients and researchers alike for some time about the potential activity of cannabinoids in treating glioblastomas. We’re really excited that this world-first trial here in the U.K. could help accelerate these answers and are so grateful to everyone who has donated to help us make this study possible,” Dr. David Jenkinson, interim CEO at The Brain Tumour Charity said in a statement.

The phase II trial is set to begin next March and will involve more than 230 patients across 15 hospitals in the U.K. The trial will assess whether Sativex, in addition to chemotherapy, can extend life for those living with a recurrent glioblastoma brain tumour.

If the trial is successful, Sativex, which is also used to treat multiple sclerosis, could be one of the first additions to the U.K’s National Health Service for glioblastoma patients since temozolomide chemotherapy in 2007.

“The recent early-stage findings were really promising and we now look forward to understanding whether adding Sativex to chemotherapy could help offer life-extension and improved quality of life, which would be a major step forward in our ability to treat this devastating disease,” Dr. Jenkinson said.

The research has received a boost from Olympian Tom Daley, the first British diver to win four Olympic medals.

Daley’s father died of a brain tumour in 2011 when Daley was 17. He has been integral to the charity’s fundraising efforts, including raising about $10,000 in support of the trial by auctioning off his homemade knitwear.

According to The Brain Tumour Charity, glioblastomas are the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, with around 2,200 people diagnosed each year in England alone.

Almost all glioblastomas recur even after intensive treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The average survival is about 12 to 18 months from the first diagnosis.

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