DEC 29, 2017 8:53 AM PST

Research Roundup: A Year in Medical Cannabis News (Part I)

WRITTEN BY: Loren DeVito

Over the past few years, there’s been a renaissance in cannabis research. Though we still have a long way to go to figure out exactly how cannabis works in the brain and to understand how it affects the body, with each new study, we are getting closer and closer to answering those questions.

Here we provide a summary of some of the year’s “greatest hits” in cannabis research:

Cancer

This year, the PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board published an updated overview on medical cannabis for cancer patients. This report provided a summary of pre-clinical studies, including the effects of cannabis compounds on liver, breast, and colon cancers. While most clinical trials conducted in patients have not yielded conclusive results in many of these cancers, pre-clinical studies, using either animal models or cell lines, continue to produce encouraging data.

In one particular study published this year, researchers found that cannabis compounds can target leukemia cells and, in combination with current cancer therapies, can actually enhance their effect – essentially delivering a more powerful anti-cancer treatment.

And while these results were conducted in cell lines and not in human patients, results such as these help us get closer to developing cannabis-based therapies that specifically target cancer cells, instead of just addressing cancer-related symptoms.

In fact, Medicanja Limited’s cannabis-based compound called chrysoeriol that is under evaluation for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of leukemia, received orphan drug designation from the FDA this year – that means, once its ready for submission, its approval will be accelerated so that it will get into patients’ hands sooner. And that’s very good news.

Epilepsy

Cannabis-based therapies for epilepsy, particularly pediatric epilepsy, are also building toward FDA approval.

GW Pharmaceuticals has developed a cannabis-based therapy, Epidiolex, for different types of pediatric epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, and Infantile Spasms. These rare and severe forms of epilepsy usually do not respond to current medications or cause a wide array of serious side effects. While some parents have been treating their children with cannabis, FDA approval would allow for more widespread use, especially in states where medical cannabis has not been legalized.

This year, GW presented positive results from their Phase 3 trial on Epidiolex in patients with LGS.

Justin Gover, CEO of GW, said in a press release, "Having recently completed our New Drug Application submission to the FDA, we are now focused on the goal of gaining approval for Epidiolex in mid-2018 and making this much-needed, first-in-class medicine available to the patients who need it."

Check out Part II of this article to learn more about research news in 2017.

About the Author
  • Academically trained neuroscientist with extensive experience in science and medical writing across a wide range of therapeutic areas.
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