Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is cannabis a treatment for brain tumours? : Cancer Research UK : CancerHelp UK

Research into cannabis as a cancer treatment

In the past few years cannabis has been the subject of a lot of medical research. There were many media reports in August 2004 about very early stage research into the use of chemical cannabinoids to help treat a type of brain tumour called glioblastoma multiforme. Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana. Complutense University in Madrid and the University hospital of Tenerife jointly carried out the research. Their results were published in the medical journal 'Cancer Research' on August 15th 2004.

The research found that cannabinoids interfere with the activity of genes needed to produce a chemical called ‘VEGF’. VEGF stands for ‘Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor’. It helps to make new cells grow.

VEGF is one of the most important chemicals controlling blood vessel growth. Doctors call the growth of new blood vessels ‘ angiogenesis’. As they get bigger, cancers need to grow their own blood vessels. Without its own blood supply to bring food and take away waste from cells, a cancer can’t grow bigger than a pea. If doctors could block VEGF, this could limit the growth of blood vessels supplying tumours and so they won’t be able to grow. This is called anti VEGF treatment.

The researchers first tested cannabinoids in the laboratory, with some promising results. They then looked at the effects of injecting cannabinoids into the brain tumours of two people with advanced glioblastoma multiforme. The researchers at the University hospital of Tenerife then used injections of cannabinoids into the tumours of 9 patients. The substance seemed to slow the growth of the tumours but more research is needed before we know whether cannabinoids may really be helpful in treating brain tumours.

Clinical trials

As far as we know, there are no trials at the moment. Further trials may take place. There are already several other anti VEGF inhibitors in clinical development for several types of cancers. It is all very early research and it may be many years before we know for sure how safe and effective anti VEGF treatment really is for people with cancer.

Clinical trials test new drugs in humans. They test drugs that have already shown potential in the laboratory. Trials initially recruit a small number of patients and if the treatment shows promise, the researchers will go on to plan larger trials. If you would like to read more about clinical trials, there is information about understanding clinical trials on CancerHelp UK. If you are looking for trials that are open and recruiting patients in the UK, go to our clinical trials database. Pick your type of cancer from the drop down menu of cancer types.

More information about brain tumours

There is information about brain tumours and their treatment in the brain tumour section of CancerHelp UK.

1 comment:

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