Cannabis Drug For Brain Cancer Gets ‘World First’ Trial

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on :
Cannabis Drug For Brain Cancer Gets ‘World First’ TrialAlamy

A cannabis-based drug that could help treat a severe form of brain cancer has been given the go-ahead to be used in ‘world-first’ trials. 

The Brain Tumour Charity launched an urgent appeal to raise £400,000 in order to fund the trial, which is expected to take place over three years.


Members of the public, alongside Olympic diver Tom Daley, backed the campaign, which is the second phase of the trial of the cannabis-based drug. Daley’s father passed away in 2011 at the age of 40 as a result of a brain tumour.

An expert from the University of Leeds will lead the study, which is set to involve 230 patients from across 15 hospitals. It will open in March 2022.

The trial hopes to uncover whether people diagnosed with recurrent glioblastoma could have their life expectancy extended through the addition of Sativex into chemotherapy treatment, Metro reports. Sativex is an oral spray that contains cannabinoids.


In England, each year, roughly 2,200 people are diagnosed with Glioblastoma, which is the most aggressive and also most common form of brain cancer.

According to The Brain Tumour Charity, life expectancy even after intensive treatment is only currently between 12 to 18 months.

The NHS hasn’t had any additional treatment for patients with glioblastoma in more than 10 years, so the trial, if successful, could potentially offer new hope.

Sativex (Alamy)Alamy

Through adding Sativex to chemotherapy, the trial seeks to evaluate whether a patient’s quality of life is improved, their life expectancy extended, or if the progression of their glioblastoma is even delayed.

Susan Short, who works as a professor of clinical oncology and neuro-oncology at the University of Leeds, is the principal investigator on the study. She noted how the treatment of the type of cancer ‘remains extremely challenging’.

Even with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, nearly all of these brain tumours regrow within a year, and unfortunately there are very few options for patients once this occurs.

Cannabinoids have well-described effects in the brain and there has been a lot of interest in their use across different cancers for a long time now.

Glioblastoma brain tumours have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surface, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide.


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However, Short noted how it was ‘really exciting’ to have been given the go-ahead to proceed with the ‘definitive, well-designed study’, which could shed light on whether cannabis could aid with glioblastoma management.

‘Having recently shown that a specific cannabinoid combination given by oral spray could be safely added to temozolomide chemotherapy, we’re really excited to build on these findings to assess whether this drug could help glioblastoma patients live longer in a major randomised trial,’ she said.

According to Dr David Jenkinson, the interim chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, there has been ‘significant interest among patients and researchers alike for some time about the activity of cannabinoids in treating glioblastomas’.

Sativex (Alamy)Alamy

Jenkinson concluded by explaining how ‘excited’ the team felt to have been given the green light to conduct the trial which ‘could help accelerate these answers’.

He also expressed his gratitude to Leeds Hospital Charity, who donated £45,000 to the campaign, ‘and so many others across the world who are helping us to make this study possible’; trials of which could be ‘a major step forward in [the] ability to treat this devastating disease’.

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Topics: Science, Cannabis, Leeds


Metro and 1 other
  1. Metro

    Cannabis drug trial for brain tumours gets go-ahead

  2. The Brain Tumour Charity

    Phase 2 trial of cannabis-based drug in glioblastomas to open in March 2022