Unexpected weight loss in patients is always a concern due to the association of this symptom with cancer. The most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients is anorexia. Due to this link patients may already have anorexia when they are first diagnosed with cancer. Almost all patients who have advanced cancer will also have anorexia. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation anorexia is the most common cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.
Although some tumours such as oral cancers directly affect the ability to eat enough food or to absorb the nutrients from food, the cancer treatments themselves may also affect taste, smell and appetite causing malnutrition. This causes one of the biggest challenges for clinicians when it comes to caring for their patients.
Approving a cancer anorexia drug
No country has yet approved a drug to treat cancer related anorexia and an effective treatment is clearly needed. Greg Gorgas CEO & President of Artelo Biosciences who are developing a new cannabis based compound says that he believes ART27.13 to be the single most powerful drug to stimulate appetite, and it will be a powerful tool for physicians to help their patients maintain weight.
Currently undergoing early (Phase 1) clinical trials, ART27.13 is a full agonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This program benefits from a profile with clinical data that suggests it is associated with profound weight gain without targeting the receptors in the CNS, thus avoiding the risks associated with THC-like "high" which should be avoided in the cancer patients. Greg Gorgas explains that cancer patients already feel that their lives have become 'out of control', and so a drug that causes such a high would not be of benefit.
There is a well-known relationship between the cannabinoid receptors in the gut region and the stimulation of appetite. So in some ways, this stimulation which is commonly known as "munchies" has been harnessed.
control their appetite without getting high
Effective control of cancer related symptoms
ART27.13 in contrast to THC, is a full endo-cannabinoid system antagonist (it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors) rather than just a partial antagonist. It is therefore more potent than THC, but because it is 'peripherally restricted', it avoids the brain and the high associated with munchies. When someone is suffering from cancer, the last thing they want is to feel more out of control. This allows them to control their appetite without getting high. Right now the drug is only available in the clinical research study in the UK. It should be on the market in around 4 years or so.
Greg goes onto say that, "While overall anorexia is associated with many types of patients, we believe the best place to study next is in cancer related anorexia".
Subject to the clinical trials, this product clearly has the potential to relieve a lot of misery and save lives.