Cannabis drug Sativex given cancer trials in Manchester

A patient administers Sativex The drug has been used for the relief of multiple sclerosis symptoms

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A cannabis-based medicine is to be given to advanced cancer patients in Greater Manchester.

The study will be the first time Sativex has been used in cancer treatment in a UK hospital.

It is licensed for multiple sclerosis treatment, but Salisbury-based firm GW Pharmaceuticals has proposed a use in easing pain in terminal patients.

Pennine Acute Trust Senior Research Nurse Sam Jole said the study would be "genuinely ground-breaking".

The drug has been subject to earlier small trials, but the tests at North Manchester General Hospital and Fairfield General Hospital in Bury will be the first in a much larger study.

The SPRAY III research programme will go on to include hospitals in North America, Latin America and Asia.

The study is looking at whether the drug can provide relief to patients who have chronic pain from advanced cancer and have been unable to get adequate relief from existing forms of pain management, such as morphine.

Sativex, which is delivered in a spray, is derived from cannabis and contains Delta-9-Tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).

Mr Jole, who has helped recruit the patients for the study, said that any research into palliative care - the relief and prevention of suffering in patients - was welcome, as such studies were "rare".

"The majority of cancer research is focused on curing disease," he said.

"Palliative care is an under-researched medical specialty and the SPRAY III studies are genuinely ground-breaking.

"I've been a research nurse for years and have never come across anything like it."

Sativex is approved in the UK, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, Canada and New Zealand as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

It has been approved for use by late-stage cancer patients suffering pain in Canada.

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