Doctor holding cannabis leaf in his palms

Federal Government awards $1.5 million towards University of Adelaide cancer and medical cannabis trial

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Researchers at the University of Adelaide will soon start a large clinical trial that will treat the symptoms of chemotherapy with personalised doses of medicinal cannabis.

The Federal Government has awarded $1.5 million of the Medical Research Future Fund to Dr. Hannah Wardill and a team of researchers from Adelaide Medical School. Wardill and her team are running the CANCAN trial, which will give people undergoing cancer treatment individualised doses of medical cannabis. 

While prior studies have focused on standardised dosing, the CANCAN trial will personalise the CBD and THC levels in the medications given to patients. THC is cannabis’s primary psychoactive component, while CBD is not psychoactive. 

According to CANCAN researchers, personalised doses will allow them to target the brutal side effects of cancer therapy on a person-to-person basis. These side effects commonly include appetite loss, pain, fatigue, mood, and sleep issues. 

Hannah Wardill of Adelaide University
Hannah Wardill of Adelaide University

Researchers in the CANCAN trial are also taking a special interest in the effects of medical cannabis on gut distress from mucosal injuries obtained from cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy. Gut distress is one of the most debilitating cancer treatment symptoms, with research showing that it affects 30 – 40% of cancer patients. 

According to Dr. Wardill, patients with severe symptoms sometimes need to take a break or stop cancer treatment altogether, which can be detrimental to their health long-term. Alleviating symptoms with medical cannabis will help patients continue anti-cancer therapy and lift their quality of life and survival prospects.

The CANCAN trial will show that targeting gut distress, due to mucosal injury, with medical cannabis will improve patient wellbeing and maintenance of intended dosing.

The CANCAN clinical trial will include 176 South Australian participants with advanced cancers. It will provide clinical data doctors can use to prescribe medical cannabis in the future. The medical cannabis used in the CANCAN trial will be provided by the Australian medical cannabis company LeafCann.

The $1.5 million CANCAN trial is scheduled to begin in 9-12 months, as researchers are waiting on ethics approval. 

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