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Researchers from Mater Research are pioneering a new approach to symptom relief by trialling medicinal cannabis in advanced cancer patients, as part of an Australian-first trial.
The trial aims to fill a vital gap in Australian medical research, providing measurable information on the benefits, efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabinoids for relieving symptoms in patients with advanced cancer.
Within the study, participants score a range of symptoms contributing to overall physical and mental wellbeing, including pain, nausea, appetite, and mental health status.
With the trial already well underway—recently reaching its 100th patient—the results are set to differ from previous research by showing a clear picture of total symptom burden (all symptoms combined), rather than honing in on individual symptoms such as pain.
Director of Mater’s Palliative and Supportive Care department, Prof Janet Hardy said the study’s findings will serve to shape prescribing practices, research, and health policy into the future.
“What we are uncovering in this study is high-quality, clinical evidence into the effects of medicinal cannabinoids,” said Prof Hardy.
“Medicinal cannabis has long been used for symptom relief across various chronic diseases, but there is a real gap in evidence regarding the specific benefits and safety for patients with advanced cancer.”
“By taking a holistic approach to the overall wellbeing of these patients, we are trialling a number of cannabinoid combinations to find the very best approach for pain relief and overall ease of symptom distress,” said Prof Hardy.
The trial is funded through a $1.3 million grant from the Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF), a landmark fund established by the Australian Government with a special release of funding for rare cancers and diseases—expected to provide the country’s medical community with tangible results over the next few years.
CEO of Mater Research, Prof Maher Gandhi commended the team’s research, saying it will bring a necessary addition to the country’s medical understanding of the benefits of cannabinoids.
“The incoming results from this study will empower the wider medical community to appropriately and safely prescribe medicinal cannabinoids as part of treatment plans for patients, ,” said Prof Gandhi.
“Further to this, these results will play a large role in educating the general public on the role these products may play in both short and long-term patient management.”
“The team’s work is paving deeper understanding of non-conventional treatments and is a welcome addition to Australia’s research—with the results undoubtedly set to speak for themselves.”
Please note this trial is currently on temporary hold in line with COVID-19 safety restrictions.
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