The study was started after two separate reports that patients with advanced liver cancer had seen their tumours shrink after using cannabis oil. Now, two and five years after their diagnoses, the tumours have completely disappeared and the patients are cured. Although laboratory research shows that cannabis can curb the growth of liver cancer cells, a possible anti-cancer effect of cannabis oil in patients cannot be explained as no scientific research has been carried out.
The cannabis oil being used is produced by the Transvaal apotheek, a specialist pharmacy with the certificates needed to produce drugs for research purposes. It is produced according to a fixed recipe with precise amounts of THC and CBD, two of the important substances contained in cannabis. The pharmacy only uses the cannabis flowers of the Cannabis Sativa L. variety, produced by Bedrocan. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has commissioned Bedrocan to standardize and grow the plant pharmaceutically in order to guarantee a consistent composition of the cannabis oil.
The first step in this study is to determine the correct dose for each patient. Patients will be given the maximum dose of cannabis oil that can be given without causing side-effects. Blood tests will be carried out and images made of the livers of those taking part after three, six and nine months to see whether the liver tumours are responding. The blood will be tested for the presence of tumour markers and to check the liver function of the participants.
Patients with liver cancer who have exhausted all treatment options
This study is being carried out with the help of patients with advanced liver cancer, for whom best supportive care is the only remaining option. As cannabis oil is broken down by the liver, all participants must have a good liver function. Patients with severe liver cirrhosis (liver damage caused by the formation of scar tissue) will not be considered for the study unless the cirrhosis is not affecting their liver function. Patients willing to join the study can be referred to the UMCG by their specialist. A total of 20 patients can take part. The study will last approximately three years.