Perth researchers are to test whether medical cannabis can pave a breakthrough in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal diseases on the planet.
Curtin University’s School of Biomedical Sciences is poised to start testing cannabis formulations against human pancreatic cell cancer lines grown in the laboratory.
The project is in collaboration with Zelda Therapeutics, a Perth-based biopharmaceutical company, which will import the cannabis from Canada.
The research will examine the usefulness of cannabis formulations as standalone treatments and in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs, such as Abraxane.
Pancreatic cancer, the 11th most prevalent cancer diagnosed in Australia, is difficult to detect in the early stages and is highly aggressive. Only 6 per cent of sufferers survive for five years following diagnosis.
“After years of slow progress in the field of pancreatic cancer treatment, we hope to finally open the path to new therapies for pancreatic cancer,” Curtin University’s Professor Marco Falasca said.
Zelda said the project will seek to replicate the success of its cannabinoid formulations on breast cancer. In November, Zelda announced the results of an experimental trial, claiming its THC-rich medical cannabis formula was as effective in reducing breast cancer tumour growth in mice as chemotherapy drug Lapatanib.
The results, which saw its share price surge, still require clinical trial validation. According to Zelda, “there is a growing body of evidence that whole plant cannabinoid extracts can impede cancer growth and potentially render the tumour more responsive to chemotherapeutic agents.”
Zelda’s executive chairman Harry Karellis hoped the pancreatic research would demonstrate anti-cancer activity.
“Professor Falasca has an established reputation in studying pancreatic cancer using cannabinoids in Italy, the United Kingdom and more recently, in Australia,” he said.
“Up until now he has been working with synthetic cannabidiol and generating positive data in vitro and in vivo. Our program will be testing our whole plant extracts in his established cell assays and depending on results can progress into further work in animal models.”
Zelda has also partnered with leading cancer researchers at Complutense University of Madrid in Spain.
The company also has ties to AusCann, which as revealed by The Sunday Times last month, has plans to cultivate and manufacture medicinal cannabis in WA.
For the cancer trials, AusCann will source the research material from its Canadian partner Canopy Growth Corporation, the world’s biggest medical cannabis cultivator.
We hope to finally open the path to new therapies for pancreatic cancer.
Originally published as New hope in pancreatic cancer fight