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World-first medicinal cannabis trial for Queensland palliative care patients receives funding

February 3, 2018

A world-first trial has received federal funding and within a matter of months, Queensland researchers hope to start investigating the symptom relief medicinal cannabis can provide to cancer patients receiving palliative care.

The trial will test several combinations of medicinal cannabinoids, natural products of the cannabis plant, to see which symptoms can be targeted and which variety of cannabinoids provides the most effective relief for just more than 200 terminally ill south-east Queensland patients.

The Mater Research Institute and University of Queensland are leading a world-first medicinal cannabis trial, set to begin later this year. Photo: Supplied

Mater Research Institute and University of Queensland researcher Professor Janet Hardy, who is leading the trial, said the four-year funding came from the Medical Research Future Fund, which is designed to support clinical trials for rare diseases and unmet medical needs.

"This is the first trial with a holistic patient approach, trying to address all of the symptoms to see if we can reduce the burden," Professor Hardy said.

The two types of cannabinoids to be trialled were tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC gives users "the high" and CBD is most beneficial as an anti-inflammatory, according to Professor Hardy.

Professor Janet Hardy Photo: Mater Research

The trial will test different combinations and doses of the two cannabinoids to determine which mixture achieves the most effective pain relief and "feel-good" factor.

"The trouble at the moment is that nobody knows what to prescribe, how to prescribe it, what dose to give or what patients will benefit the most," Professor Hardy said.

"These are the questions we hope to answer through this trial.

“Cannabis, the plant, contains more than 100 different cannabinoids but we don’t know which one or combination of these, if any, will be best for the symptomatic relief of this patient group.”

As the medical director of Mater Cancer Care Centre, Professor Hardy noted the strong interest from patients.

“There has certainly been an overwhelming interest in the use of medicinal cannabinoids, particularly for the relief of symptom distress in palliative care patients," she said.

“A large number of patients who come to us in clinic ask for cannabis, due to the public perception around its beneficial effects.”

It was hoped the trial could start in about three months time.

“Patients participating in the trial will be asked to score a range of symptoms including pain, nausea, appetite, bowel function, anxiety and depression," Professor Hardy said.

"The primary outcome we are assessing is their ‘total symptom score’ representing their symptom burden."

Originally published here: http://www.smh.com.au/queensland/world-first-medicinal-cannabis-trial-for-queensland-palliative-care-patients-receives-funding-20180203-p4yzcp.html

 

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