Tablets harnessing the properties of cannabis plant components may soon be used in tumour treatment strategies.
Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies (OCT), a biopharmaceutical company known for its exploration of cannabinoids’ medicinal potential since 2017, has unveiled plans to broaden its research to include oncology.
This expansion is prompted by a significant discovery by the company that has unveiled a promising “first in class” immunotherapy agent for addressing solid tumours.
Immunotherapy, which leverages the body’s immune system to combat cancer, is presently delivered via an IV drip, oral tablets, or topical medication applied to the skin.
Clarissa Sowemimo-Coker, the Chief Executive Officer of OCT, explained to the PA news agency: “Tumours in your body work to inhibit your regular immunotherapy response, preventing your cells from combatting the tumour as they should.”
“Based on preliminary data and experiments, we found that this compound effectively reactivates a person’s immune system, allowing it to begin counteracting the growth.”
So far in 2023, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to several immunotherapies for treating specific cervical, lung, and blood cancers, all of which are delivered through an IV drip.
Sowemimo-Coker believes that OCT’s orally administered cannabis tablets could be significantly more cost-effective from the healthcare provider’s viewpoint, and much more user-friendly for patients.
Though it’s challenging to provide a precise cost estimation at this early stage, she stated that from a general perspective, a patient taking a pill at home would result in substantial cost and time savings for both the healthcare provider and the patient compared to an IV administered at a clinic.
OCT, with its proprietary library of 500 compounds (over 300 exclusively licensed from the US firm Canopy Growth), achieved this breakthrough thanks to research partner Dalriada, through early-stage testing of the compound in-vitro and in-vivo.
The data points towards its promising drug-like potential, based on its in-vitro potency, selectivity to target, and in-vivo blood availability.
Further testing is planned, with OCT aiming to identify a lead candidate by 2024.
The journey to drug discovery is usually long, filled with pre-clinical stages that must be completed before regulatory authorities give the go-ahead for human testing. However, OCT remains optimistic and enthusiastic about the progress.
One of OCT’s key objectives is to dispel misconceptions about cannabis and cannabinoids in medicine.
Sowemimo-Coker added, “For many years, cannabis, and cannabinoids have been stigmatized. At OCT, we’re working to dispel these misunderstandings and legitimatize the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoid molecules. Research on these molecules has been lagging due to stigma and their classification under the Misuse of Drugs Act. We believe we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of their potential.”
Currently, OCT is conducting research on four different projects. The most advanced project involves a new chemical entity that attaches to the cannabinoid receptor, potentially used in tablet form for cancer patients to alleviate chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a painful chemotherapy side effect.
Sowemimo-Coker announced that trials on healthy volunteers are set to commence “very soon”, with the resulting data expected by the end of the year.