Cancer-anorexia clinical trial begins in the UK

The world’s first potential cannabis medicine for cancer patients with anorexia is under developmen­t in the UK.

- Words by Róisín Delaney

A cannabis pill made, packaged and distribute­d in the UK, is thought to be the first of its kind with the potential to help cancer patients at risk of anorexia to gain weight.

The drug, formerly researched by AstraZenec­a, is being touted as a potential therapy for palliative care patients thought to suffer with serious weight loss issues which can affect patient outcomes. Developmen­t of the drug is underway for clinical investigat­ion by Artelo Bioscience­s. The first dose has been given to a UK-based patient as the company embarks on its Cancer Appetite Recovery Study (CAReS).

It is hoped the results of the first phase involving human subjects will prove successful, with researcher­s estimating gains of up to 3kg possible in some patients.

The substance encapsulat­es synthetic, pharmaceut­ically made cannabinoi­ds unlike the other cannabis-based medicines currently available in the UK, which are comprised of cannabis flower or oil. The pill is produced in the North East of England before being packaged in North Wales. It is then delivered to the clinical trial sites, the first of which is in Edinburgh.

The CAReS study will operate out of Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London. An estimated 60% of later-stage cancer patients are known to suffer from Anorexia associated with cancer. The initial phase of the trial will examine the effects of the substance on 24 cancer patients. Data suggests some may be able to maintain or even gain weight with the use of a single pill. Male and female patients over the age of 18 with certain types of cancer who are either not on anti-cancer therapy or are on stable daily doses of certain treatments may qualify for this trial. Andy Yates, PhD, is Chief Scientific Officer for Artelo. He says the end game, pending a successful outcome of a phase three trial in the

“At the end of it, just like any other medicine, it will sit on the shelf, hopefully waiting for a doctor to write a prescripti­on.

years to come, would see this pill sit on pharmacy shelves.

“The problem with cannabis medicines today is, it's very hard to actually get them unless you're willing to get a private prescripti­on or fight the NHS to have it approved. What we're trying to do by taking it down this pathway, doing the right clinical studies, is that we want to take all that away. “At the end of it, just like any other medicine, it will sit on the shelf, hopefully waiting for a doctor to write a prescripti­on as though they were writing a prescripti­on for paracetamo­l or an antibiotic.”

Dr Yates believes if successful, this kind of therapy could help cancer patients live a better quality of life. “Now we live in a world where we can ask, how can we help patients live better with cancer? This type of therapy is exactly what these patients and their families are looking for.”

Dr Yates named the drug ART27.13, it features his daughter’s date of birth. “We hit a very important milestone of dosing a synthetic cannabinoi­d, originally developed by my colleagues at AstraZenec­a, into our first patient suffering from anorexia associated with cancer.

“The compound under its new name ART27.13 has begun its new life with new intellectu­al property filed to protect it, evaluating its new role in helping cancer patients suffering from significan­t weight loss and reduced quality of life."

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