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UC leads $1m medical cannabis trial for skin cancer

Marcus Butler

30 June 2016: The University of Canberra has signed a $1 million collaboration with international pharmaceutical company 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 program for some of the almost 50,000 Australians living with melanoma.

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, supported by Cann Pharmaceutical Australia,will 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 Ltd., 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 is excited to be involved in this research and collaboration agreement.

"We are also 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," she said.

The project is expected to commence the initial clinical trial phase in 2017.

Cann Pharmaceutical Ltd. 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.