Nanaimo-based Tilray is supplying the cannabis product that has shown positive results in an Australian study to determine if cannabis can lessen chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. (News Bulletin file photo)

Vancouver Island medicinal-cannabis product shows promise in cancer therapy

Clinical trial finds cannabis from Nanaimo’s Tilray reduced chemotherapy-caused nausea, vomiting

Preliminary results from a clinical trial indicate a Tilray cannabis product shows promise in reducing nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy used to treat cancer patients.

The announcement was made Tuesday in a press release issued by Tilray, which said one of the Nanaimo-based company’s Good Manufacturing Produced-certified products was used in Australia in the “world’s first clinical trial” and will now move from its pilot phase to a larger study to better determine if it should be considered as part of routine care for cancer patients.

The results, published in the Annals of Oncology, showed a significant improvement in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and that a quarter of the patients taking medicinal cannabis suffered no nausea and vomiting compared to 14 per cent of patients who took a placebo, the release noted.

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“The side effects associated with chemotherapy are some of the primary causes of treatment discontinuation,” said Philippe Lucas, Tilray’s vice-president of global patient research and access, in the press release. “So improving the control of nausea and vomiting can not only improve the quality of life of patients, by allowing those affected by cancer to complete their treatment, it can also potentially save lives.”

The pilot phase of the study ran for two-and-a-half years with 81 participants enrolled. To be included in the study, patients had to have already experienced nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy despite having taken nausea-prevention medication.

“Nausea and vomiting are among the most distressing and feared consequences of chemotherapy,” chief investigator Peter Grimison, a medical oncologist at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer treatment centre and University of Sydney associate professor, said in the press release. “These encouraging results indicate medicinal cannabis can help improve quality of life for chemotherapy patients.”

Side effects, such as sedation, dizziness and drowsiness were rated as moderate to severe in about one-third of people using medicinal cannabis, but these are considered manageable according to the researchers.

“The trial will now move to a larger phase to determine with much more certainty how effective medicinal cannabis is and whether it should be considered for use in routine cancer care,” Grimison said.

He said next phase of the trial is ongoing and will recruit an additional 170 people. Tilray is supplying the product for the trial, which is being funded by the state government.

The world’s largest trial of medical cannabis at the time it launched, the cannabis chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting study is a collaboration between Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer treatment centre in Camperdown, New South Wales, the University of Sydney, the National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Centre and New South Wales cancer centres.

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