By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
A RANGSIT University research team has revealed that its studies had shown a cannabinoid extract could help treat lung cancer.
Asst Professor Surang Leelawat, director of the newly founded Medical Cannabis Research Institute of the College of Pharmacy at Rangsit University, revealed the breakthrough at a press conference at the opening ceremony of the institute yesterday.
Surang said her team of researchers had found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN), which are extracted from cannabis, can stop the growth of lung cancer cells in mice and thus offer the promise of becoming new anti-lung-cancer agents in humans.
Surang said this was another step forward in finding an effective treatment that could save many lives, as lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers and there was no effective way yet to treat this fatal disease.
“Our clinical trials in the laboratory and on animals of the lung-cancer treatment proficiency of three major cannabinoid compounds – THC, CBD [Cannibidiol], and CBN – showed that THC and CBN can effectively deter cancer growth, confirming the potential of using cannabis to treat lung cancer in humans,” she said. “Even though it is too early to claim that cannabis can cure cancer, this promising research result will be developed further through a phase of clinical trials in humans. We hope that we will find an effective treatment for lung cancer in the near future.”
A Thai medical researcher at the Rangsit University displays marijuana extract for use in marijuana-based medicines at a laboratory of the Medicinal Cannabis Research Centre, inside the Rangsit University (RSU) in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 April 2019. // EPA-EFE PHOTO
Rangsit University rector Arthit Ourairat praised the major breakthrough as another proof of the usefulness of cannabis for medical treatment, underlining the university’s pursuit of further medical cannabis research and development efforts by setting up a new institute.
Arthit said the university had already contacted some major hospitals to work together for human trials in the development of cannabinoid medicine for treating lung cancer.
“As Rangsit University has opened the Medical Cannabis Research Institute to be a focal institution to develop medicines and new medical treatment techniques from cannabis, we are not only focusing on developing conventional cannabinoid medicines, but also improving the use of medical cannabis in Thai traditional medicine and developing other medical products from cannabis as well,” he said. He revealed that Rangsit University had already obtained official permission to grow cannabis and to conduct research on medical cannabis.
The university has invested more than Bt40 million on procuring high-tech medical research equipment for the laboratory at the new research institute, and has built its own small closed-system cannabis farm to provide raw material for the medical cannabis research.
“We are the pioneering academic institute on medical cannabis research and development in Thailand. We started the first research effort on the medical properties of cannabis three years ago, so we have great potential to lead the mission to manufacture Thailand’s own efficient and safe cannabinoid medical products,” he said.
“With the opening of the new medical cannabis research institute, we can enhance our research efforts by pooling the expertise of all related colleges and faculties in our university and can greatly improve our progress to find better healthcare for all Thai citizens from medical cannabis.”
Famira Madaka, a Medical Cannabis Research Institute researcher, revealed that right now the institute has already created a technique to extract pure cannabinoid compounds – THC, CBD, and CBN – from cannabis, which will be used to develop new medicines.
The institute also has already successfully developed four medical cannabis products – cannabis wafer tablets, traditional Thai Phrasa-Kancha recipe, cannabis oil and CBN oramucosal spray – which will be ready for commercial sale soon.
Meanwhile, Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) chairman Dr Sopon Mekthon disclosed that the cannabis plants in the GPO’s medical cannabis research and development farm will be ready for harvest soon, allowing the agency to start the process to extract cannabis oil within this July.