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Companies Are Developing Cannabis-Based Cancer Treatments. Will the Medical Community Take Notice?

Some promising new drugs are on the way.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Anyone remotely familiar with the ravages of cancer will understand the pressing need for the development of alternative treatments. Often overshadowed by the disease's potential prognosis are the side effects of the treatments, which run from mild to extremely painful, and can affect patients' quality of life and treatment options. 

Potential allies in this fight are cannabis compounds and their derivatives. Despite still being illegal in most countries, cannabis-based products are slowly getting approved for medicinal use. With much anecdotal evidence about the benefits of CBD and THC for therapeutic use, adding these tools to doctors’ arsenals can only be a benefit for patients.

Here are some companies developing cannabis-based products for cancer treatments.

Related: More Breast Cancer Patients Turning to Cannabis to Treat Symptoms

CBD for Radiation Therapy Dermatitis (Enveric Bioscience’s cannabidiol EV102)

Radiation therapy is a common part of many cancer treatments, but unfortunately, it comes with side effects including red rashes to open wounds. Specifically, “radiodermatitis (also called radiation dermatitis) is a condition caused by the high-energy X-rays delivered during radiation therapy, according to Enveric’s website. "It affects nearly 95 percent of patients who receive radiation for cancer treatment, with approximately 85 percent of patients having moderate-to-severe skin reactions.”

Enveric Biosciences (NASDAQ: ENVB) is a biotechnology tech firm developing mental health and oncology treatments. The company recently announced that their EV102 compound, cannabidiol (CBD) based product, demonstrated a significant and meaningful reduction in dermatitis severity.

"EV102 was topically applied during a daily treatment regimen and resulted in a nearly 50 percent reduction in redness scoring severity," says Dr. Joseph Tucker, CEO of Enveric Biosciences. "Similar results were obtained for overall dermatitis severity, which includes desquamation (skin peeling) and ulceration as part of a composite score.  Extending these promising results was an observed reduction in the overall duration of dermatitis symptoms."

The company expects results from the preclinical study to support our efforts to move EV102 to a Phase I clinical study, targeted to begin in the second half of 2022.

It doesn’t require much effort to imagine the relief this could give patients suffering from painful post-radiation irritation. If human outcomes can match these promising results, then patients will have a much-needed tool at their disposal.

 

Cannabinoids for Brain Tumors (Sativex by GW Pharmaceuticals/Jazz Pharmaceuticals

According to GW Pharmaceuticals: “ GW successfully developed the world’s first prescription medicine derived from the cannabis plant called Sativex® (nabiximols) in Europe, a formulated cannabis extract that contains the principal cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as well as other minor cannabinoids and terpenes, which is now approved in numerous countries outside of the US for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis...” 

As reported in the Guardian, Sativex is now being tested by cancer research groups and the NHS (the National Health Service in England) to see whether this cannabis mouth spray can be an effective treatment for a severe form of brain tumor. Glioblastoma is a common and aggressive kind of brain tumor with high recurrence and low survival rates, and doctors are desperate to find treatment help. 

In this trial, doctors will give Sativex to patients along with chemotherapy and compare results to those receiving a placebo. Based on preclinical data, researchers are hopeful the cannabinoid drug may kill glioblastoma tumor cells.

 

THC for Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (Syndros by Benuvia Therapeutics)

Chemotherapy is an unfortunate reality of many cancer patients’ experiences; yet despite chemo being an effective treatment option for many people, the side effects can be debilitating. 

According to this report: “An estimated 80 percent of patients with cancer will experience chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). The term CINV includes emesis and nausea, which can involve a loss of appetite and result in a decreased oral intake of fluids and calories. Poorly managed nausea and vomiting decrease the patient’s quality of life and may lead to disruptions in cancer treatments.”

Syndros (dronabinol) is a liquid cannabinoid used for the treatment of these symptoms. The first FDA-Approved CII Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Syndros is an option for patients who have difficulty swallowing pills or require medications administered via feeding tubes.

While legalization advocates are pushing for more access to natural cannabis for medical use, especially for cancer and end-of-life patients, a synthetic FDA-approved product is still a step forward in getting cannabinoids into the hands of those who need it most.