Investigating cancer-fighting properties of cannabis-related chemical

September 28, 2012, Newcastle University

(Medical Xpress)—Chemicals similar to those found in cannabis form the basis of a new drug that is being trialled in UK cancer patients for the first time.
The trial – funded by Newcastle University spin-out company e-Therapeutics plc, who also manufacture the drug – will investigate its potential for treating patients with a variety of solid tumours.

The drug, called dexanabinol, is from a family of compounds called cannabinoids. It is chemically related to compounds found in cannabis plants, but is synthesised in the lab and lacks any cannabis-like .

Professor Ruth Plummer from Newcastle University, who is leading the trial, said: "The starting point for this trial was to map networks of proteins that appear to have a role in cancer, identify points at which these networks could be disrupted, and then see if there were existing drugs to target these points.

"It was this novel approach - known as network pharmacology - that first highlighted the potential cancer-fighting properties of dexanabinol, which was originally developed to treat patients with severe . While this certainly illustrates that there may be with real therapeutic potential related to those found in cannabis, it also points to the importance of applying rigorous when selecting molecules that might have potential as cancer treatments.

"This is a phase one trial, so the main aim will be to establish what dose is safe and asses any side effects. But we'll also be looking out to see what effect, if any, the drug has on the patient's cancer."

Around 45 patients are being recruited to take part in the trial at the Northern Centre for at the Freeman Hospital, part of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and St James's University Hospital in Leeds. All the participants will have advanced solid tumours that cannot be helped by further existing treatments.

The trials will involve researchers at the Cancer Research UK and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre in Newcastle.

Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK's director of centres, said: "The potential anticancer properties of chemicals found in cannabis were first touched on by scientists in the 1970s. But it's only now that we have robust laboratory evidence in place, alongside reliable techniques for manufacturing safe and practical drugs related to these chemicals, that we're at the crucial stage of being able to embark on trials in .

"It's the job of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Network to help speed up the journey of new drugs from the bench to the bedside and we're delighted to be supporting some of the first steps towards hopefully turning this painstaking research into new treatments that could benefit patients."

A similar phase I trial is already underway in the US in brain cancer and results from both trials are expected during 2013.

Explore further: Clinical trial evaluates synthetic cannabinoid as brain cancer treatment

Related Stories

Clinical trial evaluates synthetic cannabinoid as brain cancer treatment

September 26, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center are evaluating the safety and tolerability of a synthetic cannabinoid called dexanabinol (ETS2101). Delivered as a weekly intravenous ...

Cancer Research UK launches 'outpatients' trial of breast and ovarian cancer drug

January 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office has re-launched a trial of a promising drug to treat inherited breast and ovarian cancer – but this time taken as a tablet by outpatients.

Trial launched into curry chemical's cancer-fighting properties

May 7, 2012
Compounds found in curry are being investigated as a way of improving drug response in patients with advanced bowel cancer in a new study launched today (Monday).

Trial launch of urgently-needed combination treatment for oesophago-gastric cancer

August 17, 2012
Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office (DDO), in collaboration with academia and industry, has announced a new trial to open in Oxford.

Cancer Research UK launches trial of new drug to treat acute childhood leukaemia

January 27, 2012
Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office has opened the first trial of a new type of drug to treat children aged from six months to 18 years with acute leukaemia, who are no longer responding to treatment.

Lower risk of serious side-effects in trials of new targeted drugs

August 7, 2012
Patients in early clinical trials of new-style targeted cancer therapies appear to have a much lower risk of the most serious side-effects than with traditional chemotherapy, according to a new analysis.

Recommended for you

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.