As part of a boost in funding in the fight against rare cancers and diseases plus unmet needs in health care, University of Queensland will receive $1.4 million from the Australian Federal Government to support medical cannabis research.
A clinical trial at the University of Queensland will evaluate the benefits of medicinal cannabis for patients with advanced cancer, and define cannabis’s role for patients with cancer who are undergoing palliative care.
The medical cannabis funding is part of a $69 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) boost announced yesterday. An additional $33 million worth of grants will be made available under the MRFF in 2018-19.
“For people living with a rare disease and the medical professionals treating them, there are significant challenges including diagnostic delays, lack of available treatments and difficulty in finding the appropriate care,” said Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt.
“We are committed to continuing to invest in research to find the answers to these challenges.”
While survival rates for common cancers have remained static for some time, rare cancers made up 47 per cent of all cancer deaths in Australia during 2014.
Through the MRFF, the Australian Government says it will move towards doubling its current investment in health and medical research over the next few years. Combined with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the new Biomedical Translation Fund (BTF), Australia will invest more than $6 billion in health and medical research over the next five years (from 2016-17).
Other medical cannabis research being conducted by UQ includes the development of a soluble gel (sol-gel) to deliver cannabinoids directly to the brain via the nasal cavity – a partnership between Canada’s PreveCeutical Medical Inc. (PMI) and UQ company UniQuest. It’s expected the product will be available by the end of 2018.
The medical cannabis sector in Australia is continuing to evolve, albeit very slowly in some aspects. Earlier this month, the Turnbull Government announced it would permit the export of medicinal cannabis products from Australia. There were mixed reactions to the announcement, with some pointing out that what is really needed at this stage is improving accessibility to cannabis medicines for Australian patients.