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Dr. Lauren Kelly - cannabis research
Dr. Lauren Kelly | Image: University of Manitoba

A CAD $1.5 million grant has been awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Cancer Research and the Canadian Cancer Society to look into the use of medical cannabis in children with cancer.

The study, called C4T (Canadian Childhood Cannabinoid Clinical Trials), will be led by the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

“The need for high-quality evidence is paramount to ensure the safe use of cannabis products by children,” said Dr. Lauren Kelly, scientific director of C4T. “It is time to focus on obtaining rigorous evidence and develop the clinical trials needed to inform safe selection and dosing of cannabis products in children where the risks and benefits are appropriately balanced.”

As part of the initiative, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, patients and parents will be surveyed on cannabis products currently in use for symptom management in order to gain some insight into products exhibiting the best safety profile. This investigation is with view to developing a clinical trial and inform development for a regulated pharmaceutical grade cannabis product approved for use in children with cancer.

No such product exists currently. Cannabis for use in children is currently being sourced via various channels, including the black market – hardly an optimal situation.

The information gleaned will also be incorporated into a public resource hub, along with tips for parents and health professionals on approaching the issue of medical cannabis with each other.

While this research is focused on Canada, perhaps it may also have implications beyond its shores.

According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is a leading cause of death for children and adolescents around the world. WHO states approximately 300,000 children aged 0 to 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer each year, and while 80% are cured in high-income countries, only around 20% have the same outcome in many low- and middle-income countries; where only about 20% are cured.

While there’s no solid evidence to indicate cannabis can cure cancer, it has shown potential to assist with the management of symptoms, such as pain, and the side-effects of chemotherapy treatments.

Further information on the  C4T project can be found here.

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