Preliminary results from an Australian trial indicate medical cannabis can be beneficial in reducing nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy.
There’s been significant anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest this, but more science-based evidence is always useful in making the case for cannabis to be more widely used in a clinical environment.
The long-running CannabisCINV study has been funded by a $21 million investment from the government of the state of New South Wales and involves researchers from the University of Sydney, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre. Recruitment for the trial kicked off nearly four years ago and this phase ran for 2.5 years.
81 patients were enrolled in the study, which was a phase II crossover randomised controlled trial. All these participants had already experienced nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, even though they had taken antiemetics; i.e. nausea prevention medication.
The addition of capsules containing 2.5mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 2.5mg of cannabidiol (CBD) to standard antiemetics was associated with less nausea and vomiting – 25% experienced no vomiting and nausea, compared to 14 percent of patients who took a placebo.
While there were additional side-effects when using medicinal cannabis such as sedation, dizziness or disorientation, most participants (83%) preferred THC:CBD to placebo. There were no serious adverse events associated with the THC:CBD capsules.
“Nausea and vomiting are among the most distressing and feared consequences of chemotherapy,” said the trial’s lead investigator, Associate Professor Peter Grimison. “These encouraging results indicate medicinal cannabis can help improve quality of life for chemotherapy patients.”.
Given the initial success, the study is to recruit an additional 170 participants to complete its full intake for the definitive, phase III, parallel group analysis. This will provide more certainty regarding the use of medical cannabis in treating chemotherapy related vomiting and nausea – and whether it should be considered as a routine option in the care of cancer patients.
The medical cannabis used in the trial was supplied by Canadian-headquartered Tilray.
Further details of the findings were published last month in the journal Annals of Oncology.