UK to run trials on cannabis mouth spray "Sativex" as treatment for brain tumours.

Liz Filmer
16 Aug 2021

In the first such study globally, The NHS will investigate whether a cannabis-based mouth spray can treat brain tumours and help patients live longer.

Patients across the UK suffering from "glioblastoma", an aggressive brain tumour, will be given the cannabis medication "Sativex" alongside chemotherapy medication to kill off cancerous cells.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive, hard-to-treat form of brain tumour that almost always returns, despite surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Diagnosed patients only have a prognosis of 12 to 18 months to live, whilst those suffering from recurrent glioblastoma survive for just ten months on average. The most typical form of brain cancer, around 2,200 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in England.

Sativex is one of three cannabis medicines currently licensed for use in the NHS. It is already prescribed for patients with Multiple Sclerosis whose condition has failed to improve despite treatment to reduce spasticity. The Sativex medication contains equal amounts of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)

The study is coordinated by "Cancer Research UK's" clinical trials unit at Birmingham University, funded by "The Brain Tumor Charity". Two hundred and thirty patients will be recruited from early next year across at least 15 UK hospitals and specialist cancer centres. Two-thirds of participants will receive Sativex alongside Temozolomide. At the same time, the remaining third will be given Temozolomide alongside a placebo.

"The Aristocrat study" will look at the safety of the long term use of a combination of Sativex and Temozolomide along with its impact on the patient's outcome and life expectancy. This trial follows an earlier, phase one test – that examined the initial safety of administering Sativex and Temozolomide together. The new trial will run over three years.

Recent early-stage findings were promising. The initial study showed that more patients treated with Sativex were still alive 12 months later than those given the placebo. The hope now is to prove is that adding Sativex to chemotherapy could offer life extension and improved quality of life. This would be a significant step forward in the treatment of such a devastating disease.

The Brain Tumour Charity has launched an appeal to cover the £450,000 costs involved to push ahead with the trial. The request was necessary following the charity losing 25% of its income during the COVID 19 pandemic.

"It is vital that trials like this, investigating the role cannabis or the chemicals in it can play to treat cancer, are carried out," Professor Pam Kearns, Clinical Unit Director.

For more information or to donate, visit The Brain Tumor Charity or Cancer Research UK.


Liz Filmer