One of the most accepted theories about medical cannabis and cancer is that cannabis can, at the very least, help to relieve the extreme nausea caused by chemotherapy. Now, the NSW government plans to run a trial to determine whether cannabis based medicine really can help people suffering from the debilitating effects of chemotherapy.
News.com.au reports on one such sufferer, a 21-year-old woman referred to only by her first name: Matilda. She says she’s hoping that she’ll be one of the 80 patients to be selected for the trial, because the severe nausea and diarrhoea that affects her is turning the simple act of eating into something she’d rather not do.
If initial results seem promising, the trial will be extended to 250 patients. Despite a number of trails that seem to indicate that cannabis will reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy, researcher Professor Grimstone says there isn’t enough evidence to be sure, and he’s hoping that the NSW trial will change that.
Which cannabinoids will be tested?
Those who are imagining cancer patients puffing away at joints during the trial may think again. The medication will be administered as a tablet. The research team says that so far, only THC has ever been prescribed for chemotherapy-induced nausea, and that results have been very mixed, with some patients experiencing side-effects they were uncomfortable with. As a result, the medication to be tested will focus less on THC. Instead, it will consist of a 50/50 combination of THC and CBD.
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Flawed from the start?
The first issue that strikes a layperson reading this article is a bit of a no-brainer. If people are already suffering from severe nausea and vomiting, how will they keep a pill down?
The second issue will plague those who pride themselves in knowing a bit about how cannabis is administered. Oral treatments are believed to have the disadvantage of absorption in the digestive system. Not only may this absorption be inefficient, but the cannabinoids could be changed in digestive processes. That is why people using CBD oil are instructed to hold it under the tongue for a minute or two, and it’s also why so many are choosing vaping or even suppositories over edibles.
Last, but not least, the trial is limiting itself to two ingredients in cannabis. It would be fair enough to call it a “cannabis based” medicine, but it’s a far cry from cannabis itself. With many scientists believing that the various compounds in cannabis work together in the so-called “entourage effect”, we need to be careful about considering this research as a fair trial of cannabis itself.
Spanish cannabis and cancer trial forms the basis
A Spanish study produced dramatic results when using orally administered THC and CBD in 50/50 proportions Science Explorer reports, but regretfully, the study was too small to be considered conclusive. The NSW study will expand on the Spanish experiment to see whether the results can be replicated when a larger number of patients participate.
Whatever the rationale, we fervently hope that cannabis and cancer research will be advanced in the NSW study, and that a means of reducing the terrible discomfort of chemotherapy may be found.