We always do backflips of joy at the office when we hear about new promising studies involving cannabis!
(OK, maybe not backflips but we still celebrate 🥳)
A preliminary result of what is being touted as a landmark clinical trial involving 81 cancer patients in Australia reported a promising new statement:
"Cannabis outperforms placebos for relieving two common and debilitating side effects of chemotherapy: nausea and vomiting."
Sponsored by the New South Wales Government and University of Sydney, the Phase 2 trial found an extra 1 in 10 patients at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital who received capsules containing 50:50 of CBD and THC reported better control over their nausea and vomiting.
“A quarter of the patients taking medicinal cannabis experienced no vomiting and nausea, compared to 14 percent of people who took a placebo,” notes the study abstract.
The pilot phase of the study, which ran for two-and-a-half years, included cancer patients who were already experiencing nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy despite having taken nausea prevention medication.
Dr. Peter Grimison, an associate professor at the university and a medical oncologist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse said: “Nausea and vomiting are among the most distressing and feared consequences of chemotherapy.”
Imported from Canada, the oral capsules containing 2.5 mg each of THC and CBD were developed by Tilray. The equal mix was specified because scientists believed “this will be more effective and have fewer side effects”, as well as to “minimize THC levels that have mood-altering characteristics.”
When the trial was announced three years ago, Dr. Grimison said: “The role of cannabis medicines in alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is still unclear, and this study aims to provide a definitive answer to this question.”
The therapy was not without some side effects, notes the study published in Annals of Oncology.
Side effects such as sedation, dizziness and drowsiness were rated as moderate to severe in 31% of people using medicinal cannabis, but these were considered manageable.
In fact, “83% of participants preferred cannabis to placebo. No serious adverse events were attributed to THC:CBD,” the study notes.
The trial will now move to a larger phase, with another 170 people to be recruited, to “determine with much more certainty how effective medicinal cannabis is and whether it should be considered for use in routine cancer care,” Dr. Grimison says in the university statement.
The helpful effects of using cannabis have been noted in other studies involving cancer patients, as well.
For example, patients enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program experienced a significant reduction in symptoms assessed within 4 months of starting the program.
Released last year, the proportion of patients achieving 30% or more symptom reduction within that timeframe varied from 27% for fatigue to 50% for vomiting.
A study published in 2018, involving 1,211 cancer patients who completed the study through follow-up, looked at symptoms such as sleep problems, pain, nausea and reduced appetite.
Findings show the vast majority of patients, 95.9%, reported an improvement in their medical condition, while 3.7% reported no change and 0.3% reported deterioration.
“Cannabis as a palliative treatment for cancer patients is a well-tolerated, effective and safe option to help patients cope with the malignancy-related symptoms,” notes the study abstract.
Again, some side effects were reported. These included dry mouth, increased appetite, sleepiness and psychoactive effects. Although dry mouth was the most commonly reported, it was cited by just 7.3% of patients.