Multiple New Studies Intensively Released: Cannabis Effective in Treating Brain Cancer, Chronic Pain, Epilepsy, Autism, FDA Authorizes CBD for Addiction Research

1. Cannabis extract CBD opens up immunotherapy for brain tumours

Recently, a recent study showed that inhaled CBD (cannabidiol) not only limits tumour growth, but also alters indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), a target of TME, by inhibiting P-selectin, apelin and interleukin (IL)-8, as well as blocking key immune checkpoints. In addition, CBD enhanced expression of cluster of differentiation (CD) 103, suggesting improved antigen presentation, facilitated CD8 immune responses and reduced innate lymphoid cells within the tumour.

According to the Glioblastoma Foundation of America, glioblastoma is one of the most deadly brain tumours, with a median survival of 15 months after diagnosis, even with treatment. Dr Martin Rutkowski, a neurosurgeon specialising in brain tumours at the Medical College of Georgia, says that the last 15 years of treatment studies have only improved survival by two to three months.

Glioblastoma (GBM), the most common aggressive brain tumour, is composed of multiple cell types and has a poor prognosis. The highly complex tumour microenvironment (TME) and its interactions with tumour cells play an important role in the development, progression and persistence of GBM. Angiogenesis and immune factors are two major components of the GBM TME; their interaction is a major determinant of tumour vascularisation, immune features and immune unresponsiveness in GBM.

Given that the current standard therapies (surgery, radiotherapy and concomitant chemotherapy) are ineffective in treating patients with GBM, there is a need to develop new approaches to the treatment of these deadly brain tumours.

Like many tumours, glioblastomas are surrounded by a microenvironment that protects and encourages their survival and expansion," said Dr Babak Baban, Associate Dean for Research at the Medical College of Georgia. The tumour needs to produce new blood vessels in order to grow, a process called angiogenesis. Through angiogenesis, it can spread, it can survive, and glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive in the central nervous system."

Whereas protection from tumour eradication is an enzyme known as IDO (indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase), whose function was first discovered in 1998, experiments have shown that inhaled CBD appears to block IDO activity, prompting the emergence of antagonistic T cells in the peritumour immune system, Dr Baban said, adding that overall, our new findings support CBD as an effective, relatively safe and easy-to-use Overall, Dr Baban said, our new findings support CBD as an effective, relatively safe and easy-to-use therapeutic adjuvant for GBM that has a significant impact on cellular and molecular signalling in TME.

Dr Rutkowski added that CBD opens the door to the use of immunotherapy to fight cancer by boosting the body's immune system, which opens up breakthrough treatments for lung, melanoma, breast and other cancers.

2. 73% of chronic pain sufferers switch to cannabis therapy

Recently, data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that patients diagnosed with chronic pain who used medical cannabis products under a doctor's authorization significantly reduced their use of opioids and benzodiazepines.

One in five adults in the United States suffers from chronic pain. Chronic pain is a major cause of disease burden and disability worldwide. There are many causes of chronic pain, including cancer, Lyme disease, arthritis, injury, nerve damage, fibromyalgia and more. For most people who suffer from this condition, the pain can be very severe and even affect the quality of life for life.

Doctors for severe chronic pain often prescribe strong medications with serious side effects, which are not always effective. Opioids are prescribed for severe cases of chronic pain, but can lead to addictions that are difficult to break. Some of the more common opioids used to treat pain include fentanyl, codeine, morphine, methadone, hydromorphone and hydrocodone.

A group of researchers at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute at Thomas Jefferson University evaluated prescription drug use patterns in a group of pain patients prior to and six months after initiating use of a state-licensed medical marijuana product.

In line with dozens of other studies, the majority of participants in this study (73%) reduced or stopped their opioid intake. Also in line with previous studies, 69% of patients taking benzodiazepines either reduced their use or stopped taking them altogether. Study participants also reported lower pain scores, improved physical and mental health and an improved overall quality of life after starting cannabis use.

The researchers concluded that "in patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal non-cancerous orthopaedic pain, cannabis can reduce pain, improve physical and mental health, and enhance quality of life. An objective association between the initiation of cannabis treatment and a decrease in opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions. Our results support the use of cannabis as an effective analgesic and prescription saving therapy."

US FDA approves a clinical trial of cannabis for 'detoxification'

Last Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a clinical trial of a cannabis extract, CBD, for the treatment of opioid use addiction.

The study will be conducted at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviour at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The trial will be led by UCLA professors Edythe London and Richard De La Garza II, PhD: "The clinical trial is an important milestone in our ongoing research on treatment alternatives for opioid use disorders and reversing the impact of opioid abuse."

Significantly, a study published last year in the Journal of Applied Health Economics and Health Policy found that the legalisation of cannabis led to a "significant decline" in the number of opioids prescribed across Canada.

3. Cannabis Extract Reduces Seizures by 86%

Childhood epilepsy is a complex disorder common in children ages 0 to 18 that is characterized by recurrent, paroxysmal seizures.A study of children with refractory epilepsy published in the BMJ Pediatrics Open Access Journal on Jan. 7 showed that full-spectrum cannabis therapy relieved up to 86 percent of seizures.

To conduct the study, researchers collected retrospective clinical data from the clinicians and caregivers of 10 children with drug-resistant epilepsy. The average age of the children recruited by the researchers was 6 years, but ranged from 1 to 13 years. These children had a range of epilepsy and various coexisting problems such as learning ability, global developmental delays and infantile spasms.

These young patients were given a full-spectrum cannabis oil containing CBD, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and other cannabinoids, which also contained compounds such as flavonoids and terpenes. These children tried an average of seven conventional epilepsy medications. After starting medicinal cannabis, seven of the children stopped taking their conventional medications altogether.

The authors of the study formally reported that each patient's physician determined the dose of cannabis oil to be given to the children. The children consumed an average of 5.15 mg of THC and 171.8 mg of CBD per day. The study ultimately found an overall average reduction of 86% in monthly seizure incidence in the 10 children, with no adverse side effects recorded.

The parents of the patients were also involved in the study and they reported the results to the researchers via video conference or telephone, recording side effects such as excessive fatigue and mood changes while establishing the exact dose.

Rayyan Zafar, one of the study authors, reported that all parents noted that their children tolerated the full spectrum of cannabis extracts adequately. Parents confirmed significant improvements in their children's behaviour, mood and cognitive abilities.

The study also demonstrated that the use of full-spectrum cannabis oil significantly reduced the patients' use of other prescribed medications. Prior to the start of the study, these patients were taking several medications per day and once they started using cannabis oil as an alternative treatment, the patients' use of anti-epileptic medication was reduced from an average of seven times per day to one time per day.

4. Cannabis extract for autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder

According to new research carried out by Israeli scientists, the use of cannabis extracts on animal models of autism reduces their compulsiveness and enhances their social skills, and the same effect can be achieved in humans.

The study, conducted by PhD chairs Shani Poleg and Professor Daniel Offen, students from the Sackler School of Medicine, the Felsenstein Medical Research Centre and the Sagor School of Neuroscience, was published in the journal Nature in the journal Psychology of Translation.

The usual process of testing new drugs involves studies in petri dishes, then animal models and finally clinical studies in humans," says Professor Orphen. As cannabis is not yet defined as a drug, trials have been carried out in children and adolescents with autism, meaning there are no preliminary studies to address questions such as the effects of cannabis on biochemical processes in the brain, spinal fluid or blood and who can benefit from which type of cannabis oil.

According to the study, at least 1% of cases of al autism show mutations in the Shank3 gene, which leads to social deficits and compulsive behaviour. The researchers used a similar model in animals to understand the role of cannabis oil in alleviating symptoms.

Back in September last year, a team of Israeli researchers began a non-placebo controlled study using high levels of CBD to treat children with autism. After six months of treatment, over 83% of parents reported some degree of improvement in their child's life.

The project was led by leading Israeli scientists Lihi Bar-Lev Scholyder and Raphael Mechoulam, who analysed data from 188 children with autism (mean age 13 years). The majority of patients were given a relatively aggressive dose of cannabinoids totalling approximately 60mg three times a day (20:1 ratio CBD:THC), administered mostly as sublingual oil drops.

It was a two-year cannabis treatment programme, but it was closely watched by researchers from the very beginning of the programme. To the surprise of Lihi Bar-Lev Scholyder and the rest of the research team, after only six months of use 83.8% of parents of children with autism gave feedback that their children had already made some degree of improvement in their lives.

When high CBD cannabis oil was administered, the affected children became more independent and were able to bathe and dress themselves. Nearly 25% of the affected children also began to show signs of good sleep, and there was a significant improvement in agitation and anger, two typical behavioural symptoms of autism. It is worth noting that the vast majority of these improvements in performance through treatment (around 95%) were made within the first month, suggesting that treatment of affected children with high CBD content hemp oil does not require a long wait to see results.

So the conclusion the researchers have given so far is that, given the findings at this stage, cannabis may indeed be a promising breakthrough therapy for autism, but more rigorous trials and studies are needed.