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Researchers to study effects of medical cannabis in children with cancer

A new study is due to get underway this year.

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Each year over 700 children aged 0-14 years are diagnosed with cancer in Australia

An Australian study exploring the effects of medical cannabis in children with cancer is due to get underway this year.

In a three-year-trial, researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), will assess the safety and effectiveness of two medicinal cannabis products for managing symptoms in children with advanced cancer.

QUT has received almost $700,000 from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to carry out what will be Australia’s first study examining the use of medical cannabis in children with cancer who are receiving palliative care. 

The trial will compare different combinations and ratios of CBD and THC to determine which is preferable in reducing symptoms.

Researchers will measure symptom scores for appetite, lack of energy, pain, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. 

They will also measure sleep, activity, anxiety and depression scores.

Each year over 700 children aged 0-14 years are diagnosed with cancer in Australia, and about 100 children under the age of 15 die from the disease.

The study, which is expected to start this year, will be led by QUT Adjunct Associate Professor Anthony Herbert, who is also director of Children’s Health Queensland’s Paediatric Palliative Care Service.

“We aim to investigate if giving medicinal cannabis to children receiving palliative care for advanced cancer improves their symptoms such as pain and sleep,” said Prof Herbert. 

“This group of children may not have long to live, so their quality of life is really important, and we want to know if this intervention can help them in their last weeks or months of life.”

He added: “This study will contribute to the limited evidence around the role and safe use of medicinal cannabis in children, which can be used to inform future clinical trials.

Researchers will also ask patients, parents and clinicians about their overall impression of treatment benefit.

“We will also look at the total burden of symptoms because the treatment might not affect any one symptom significantly but may help overall,” added Prof Herbert. 

“The clinical trial will be a win-win because patients will have access to the medicine, but clinicians will also have the opportunity to observe the impacts of medicinal cannabis in a structured and controlled way to see if it has benefits without causing side effects such as drowsiness, or potentially even making symptoms worse.”

 

 

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