Thursday, December 8, 2011

Researchers seek Chronic Fatigue patients for study

Participants needed to take part in study, the first to look in-depth at vision problems caused by the disorder 

Researchers from the University of Leicester have launched a new study into vision problems suffered by patients with Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). People who suffer from ME/CFS typically experience a range of symptoms which may include extreme tiredness, painful joints, headaches and digestive problems.

The team from the University of Leicester's School of Psychology is undertaking the first study to look in-depth at visual issues in ME/CFS patients. The researchers hope that collecting medical evidence of such symptoms could aid in the diagnosis and treatment of ME/CFS.

There is little consensus on the cause of ME/CFS or on how to treat patients with the condition. Although vision problems are widely reported by ME/CFS sufferers, research in this area is scarce and little formal evidence of such issues has been documented.

The researchers are actively looking to recruit participants to take part in the study.
Steve Badham, who is running the study, said: "This project provides us with an excellent opportunity to study the link between vision and ME/CFS. Understanding this relationship will allow us to better differentiate between ME/CFS and other conditions, and to learn more about the symptoms that patients are suffering from."

The University of Leicester team hopes to investigate a range of basic visual problems commonly reported by ME/CFS sufferers, such as hypersensitivity to light and difficulties focussing on and tracking objects.

ME/CFS affects around 250,000 people in the UK alone. The main symptom is persistent fatigue and tiredness that doesn't go away with rest and has no obvious cause. Sufferers may also experience other symptoms and can find themselves unable to work or take part in activities. Gathering hard evidence of the symptoms and effects of ME/CFS can aid in treatment and diagnosis and help raise the profile of this debilitating illness.

The diagnosis of ME/CFS has been a controversial one for many years, because the cause of the condition is currently unknown. Suggested treatments for ME/CFS include psychological interventions such as behavioural therapy, and medication such as painkillers and low dose antidepressants. There is no known cure for ME/CFS.

The researchers are looking for anyone with a medical diagnosis of ME or CFS to get in touch if they wish to help out with the study. Participants will take part in the study at the University, involving visual tests and tasks on a computer. You can contact Steve Badham by email ( or telephone (0116 229 7081) for more information about volunteering. Even if you don’t think you suffer from a vision problem, you may still be eligible to take part.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pot, narcotics OK to treat chronic pain

Inhaled marijuana appears to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain when used in addition to narcotics like morphine and oxycodone, according to a small UCSF study that is the first to look at the combined effects of the two classes of drugs in humans.

The study, published in this month's edition of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was designed primarily to look at whether taking marijuana with narcotics is safe, and researchers reported that there were no negative side effects from combining the drugs.

Overall, the 21 men and women in the study reported a roughly 25 percent reduction in pain after inhaling vaporized marijuana several times a day for five days.

If the results can be backed up in further studies, marijuana could prove an important means of augmenting the effects of narcotic drugs for the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain associated with cancer, AIDS and a variety of other conditions, said study author Dr. Donald Abrams, a UCSF professor and chief of the hematology-oncology division at San Francisco General Hospital.
"If we can get funded, we should do a study now with pain as the endpoint" and not just safety, Abrams said.

He added that scientists don't yet understand how, exactly, marijuana and opiates interact in humans, but "our results support that the relationship between cannabis and opiates is synergistic."

Multiple studies of medical marijuana have shown that the drug can be beneficial in treating pain. A drug called Sativex that combines the two main compounds of marijuana - cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - is currently in clinical trials for treatment of pain in cancer patients in the United States, and is already used in Europe and Canada.

Stands to reason

With what's already known about marijuana's pain-relieving effects, it's not surprising that the drug, when used with narcotics, would increase pain relief, said researchers not associated with the new study.

"There's already tons of data on cannabinoid pain relief and opiate pain relief, and it only makes sense that you'd get more pain relief from two drugs instead of one," said Dr. Daniel Nomura, an assistant professor in the nutritional sciences and toxicology department at UC Berkeley.

Abrams himself pointed out that because his study is small, and because all of the patients knew they were inhaling marijuana and therefore could have experienced some pain relief from a "placebo effect," it would be premature to start widely prescribing cannabis to pain patients. Still, the results were promising enough that he intends to attempt a second study to look more closely at pain relief.

But getting another study off the ground will be tough. The bar has been set high for acceptable uses of medical marijuana, Abrams said, and getting money and other resources - notably, the drug itself - to conduct research can be very difficult. Abrams' study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which also supplied the marijuana.

The patients in Abrams' study were taking twice-daily doses of either morphine or oxycodone to treat chronic pain associated with a variety of conditions, such as arthritis, neuropathy, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Patients stayed at San Francisco General Hospital during the study. They inhaled vaporized marijuana three times a day, for about 10 minutes at time. On the first day of the study, the mean pain score, on a scale of 0 to 100, was 39.6; after five days of marijuana therapy, their mean pain score was 29.1.

Ideal outcome

The hope, Abrams said, is that marijuana could someday be used either in conjunction with narcotics or as a replacement for narcotics to help curb some of the side effects associated with those medications.
Glenn Osaki of Pleasanton, a patient of Abrams who used to take drugs like morphine and oxycodone daily, said he's been off narcotics since July 2010, after he started using medical marijuana to combat pain associated with colon cancer.

"I was out of it most of the time from the opiates," said Osaki, 53. "It was hard having a decent quality of life, and I was just trying to figure out a way to manage my pain."

Medical marijuana has only one side effect he doesn't care for: the high.

"I used to smoke pot when I was a kid, just goofing around," he said. "The stuff nowadays is pretty strong, so that is one thing I don't really like now."

At UC Berkeley, Nomura agrees. He and other biologists are studying ways to tap into the useful effects of cannabis without the drug high that comes with it.

"Obviously medicinal marijuana is still widely used. There are really undisputed beneficial effects," Nomura said. "But in terms of moving forward with drug development, we need to develop safer drugs that don't make you high."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cannabis slows cancer in test tube

Marijuana Ingredients Slow Invasion by Cervical and Lung Cancer Cells

Dec. 26, 2007 -- THC and another marijuana-derived compound slow the spread of cervical and lung cancers, test-tube studies suggest.

The new findings add to the fast-growing number of animal and cell-culture studies showing different anticancer effects for cannabinoids, chemical compounds derived from marijuana.

Cannabinoids, and sometimes marijuana itself, are currently used to lessen the nausea and pain experienced by many cancer patients. The new findings -- yet to be proven in human studies -- suggest that cannabinoids may have a direct anticancer effect.

"Cannabinoids' ... potential therapeutic benefit in the treatment of highly invasive cancers should be addressed in clinical trials," conclude Robert Ramer, PhD, and Burkhard Hinz, PhD, of the University of Rostock, Germany.

Might cannabinoids keep dangerous tumors from spreading throughout the body? Ramer and Hinz set up an experiment in which invasive cervical and lung cancer cells had make their way through a tissue-like gel. Even at very low concentrations, the marijuana compounds THC and methanandamide (MA) significantly slowed the invading cancer cells.

Doses of THC that reduce pain in cancer patients yield blood concentrations much higher than the concentrations needed to inhibit cancer invasion.

"Thus the effects of THC on cell invasion occurred at therapeutically relevant concentrations," Ramer and Hinz note.
The researchers are quick to point out that much more study is needed to find out whether these test-tube results apply to tumor growth in animals and in humans.

Ramer and Hinz report the findings in the Jan. 2, 2008 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.