Australia’s 50,000 melanoma sufferers could soon find relief through medical-grade cannabis as a result of a joint project involving the University of Canberra and a leading international pharmaceutical company.
The university has signed a $1 million collaboration with Cann Pharmaceutical to commence a medical-grade cannabis therapy trial for melanoma patients.
The two-year research project aims to produce a novel combination therapy treatment for some of the almost 50,000 Australians living with melanoma.
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The research will be led by University of Canberra professor in molecular and cellular biology Sudha Rao, who is already conducting ground-breaking research to stop recurrence in breast cancer and other aggressive cancers.
Professor Rao said the project would help better inform the efficacy of medical cannabis-based treatments for melanoma.
“Australians have the highest rate of melanoma in the world, with estimates of more than 13,000 new cases to be diagnosed in 2016 alone,” Professor Rao said.
“When you consider that melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia and New Zealand, and almost 1,800 people will die as a result of this cancer this year, we need to work harder at finding effective treatments.”
The identified strains of cannabis at the centre of the research have been developed by Israel-based Cann Pharmaceutical and will be coupled with the current standard care for melanoma patients.
Professor Rao’s team within the University’s Health Research Institute is already heading innovative research into aggressive cancers, such as breast cancer and developing treatments to switch off cancer stem cells and prevent cancer recurrence.
Acting vice-chancellor Professor Frances Shannon said the university was excited to be involved in this research and collaboration agreement.
“We are incredibly excited to take a leading research role into the application of medicinal cannabis for Australian patients,” Professor Shannon said.
“The support of Cann Pharmaceutical Australia, providing access to their medical-grade cannabis strains and funding worth $1 million is critical to taking this work from laboratory testing to clinical trials.”
The project is expected to commence the initial clinical trial phase within the ACT in 2017.
Cann Pharmaceutical is a recognised global leader in medical-grade cannabis, with nine years of operating experience producing the therapeutic drug for patients with intractable epilepsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons and certain pain conditions.
ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury welcomed the project’s announcement on Thursday, saying: “The Greens believe that medicinal cannabis should be available to sick and dying patients who need it, and have been driving this issue at both a local and national level.
“Today’s announcement is an important step in our long journey towards making medicinal cannabis a readily available treatment for a number of conditions, such as epilepsy, a range of different types of cancer and multiple sclerosis.
“The political debate about medicinal cannabis has gone on for some time now and I am really pleased that we are finally seeing movement on the ground that will help to relieve pain and suffering for many individuals.”