Orange joins world-first cannabis drug trial to combat cancer treatment side effects

WORLD-FIRST: Oncologist Rob Zielinski will investigate the results of a medical marijuana trial at Orange Health Service for cancer patients. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 1206jktrials1
WORLD-FIRST: Oncologist Rob Zielinski will investigate the results of a medical marijuana trial at Orange Health Service for cancer patients. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 1206jktrials1

Cancer patients will have the chance to join a world-first medical marijuana trial at Orange Health Service.

Currently, half of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy suffer significant nausea and more than a third experience vomiting.

Marijuana, or cannabis will be compared to anti-nausea medications.

Oncologist Rob Zielinski said the trial involved a new cannabis compound and would be administered through a tablet.

We have got some great drugs but this is a wonderful trial to prove whether a cannabis based medication is going to help these patients.

Oncologist Rob Zielinski

To be eligible, patients have to suffer nausea from chemotherapy.

“The actual (chemotherapy) drugs we choose to use have varying degrees, or severity of nausea,” Dr Zielinski said.

“Certain drugs cause nausea 100 per cent of the time.”

He said with half of patients suffering from nausea, there’s a “reasonable proportion of people that we have to do a lot better for”.

“We have got some great drugs but this is a wonderful trial to prove whether a cannabis-based medication is going to help these patients,” Dr Zielinski said.

“This trial will be 80 patients across NSW and will take 12 months to work out if the drug is effective, we’re looking for patients who have no nausea, no vomiting.

If this trial is judged a success, another one with up to 250 patients will begin. Dr Zielinski estimated if the medication was viewed as a success, it would be on the market in another two to three years.

“The drug itself is a combination of two of the most common cannabonoids, the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) which gets a lot of press, and Cannabidiol which is actually the drug we think will manage the nausea,” he said.

“Those two compounds are balanced, and it’s supposed to be like the ying and yang so the patients won’t be too affected with adverse effects.

“The best way to join would be to get your GP to refer you to the Central West Cancer Care Centre.”

Hospital general manager Catherine Nowlan said the trial was a big development.

“This is a very exciting and significant opportunity for Orange Health Service. It is the largest and most definitive trial ever conducted in the world of a plant-derived cannabis medicine for the prevention of nausea,” Ms Nowlan said.