Cannabinoid mice trial holds hope for pancreatic cancer patients
Curtin University's Professor Marco Falasca led the research. A naturally occurring cannabinoid could provide hope for pancreatic cancer patients after breakthrough research by Curtin University found it strongly enhanced the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug Gemcitabine in mice.
Scientists at Curtin and Queen Mary University of London tested the impact the naturally occurring cannabinoid 'Cannabidiol' had on the use of Gemcitabine as a treatment for pancreatic cancer in mice.
Lead author Curtin University Professor Marco Falasca said the the research indicated the mice, whose form of the cancer closely resembles the human disease, lived three times longer if they were treated with the combination of Cannabidiol and Gemcitabine.
“This study shows that chemotherapy treatments for mice with pancreatic cancer was enhanced with the use of a particular constituent of medicinal cannabis,” he said.
Cannabidiol is already cleared for use in clinics and does not face the same challenges as products such as cannabis oil, which contain controlled substances.
Professor Falasca said the study had potentially important implications for the treatment of pancreatic cancer in humans because Cannabidiol was already approved.
“Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics, which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials," he said.
"If we can reproduce these effects in humans, Cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately, compared to having to wait for authorities to approve a new drug."
Professor Falasca said this research was important because of the extremely low survival rate of pancreatic cancer.
“The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years because there are very few, and mostly only palliative care, treatments available," he said.
"Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer remains about seven per cent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed.”
Cannabidiol does not cause psychoactive effects, as opposed to other cannabinoids known to cause the psychoactive effects in cannabis.
Professor Falasca is currently collaborating with specialist cannabinoid bio-pharmaceutical company Zelda Therapeutics to help find new treatments incorporating medicinal cannabis for patients with chronic and fatal diseases including pancreatic cancer.
The research was published in the journal Oncogene on Tuesday.