Areas of Focus

Cannabinoid-based therapies have a very wide range of potential medical applications, many of which OCT is exploring. Current research projects are in the following areas:

Pain

Pain (the sensory and emotional response associated with tissue damage) impairs quality of life. Therapeutic options for patients living with pain are limited and consist predominantly of opioids and anti-inflammatory drugs. Over the past years it has become clear that the continued use of opioids has resulted in a crisis in Europe and the USA with many patients now dependent on the drugs. This fact, together with the large number of patients who do not react to any current pain medication, makes it essential that more, and safer pain medications are being developed.

Cannabinoid receptors are expressed in the peripheral and central nervous system as well as on immune cells, all of which are in areas ideally suited for the modulation of pain processing. Pre-clinical data in a number of acute, neuropathic, chronic, and cancer pain models has shown a potent analgesic effect of cannabinoids and a small number of clinical trials have confirmed that cannabinoids have the potential to alleviate pain. However, clinical trials have also shown that a thorough understanding of the interplay of various cannabinoids (e.g. THC vs. CBD) and their specificity in different pain conditions is essential to develop targeted pain medications that can help sufferers.

Oncology

OCT is conducting a number of oncology studies. Over the last decade, numerous studies have been carried out to determine the role of the cannabinoid system in cancer development. However, the pathways involved are complex and the role of the cannabinoid system in tumour formation not yet fully understood.

OCT is beginning to get a better understanding of the anti-cancerous effects of the various cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have been shown to effect cancer growth and metastasis through a number of pathways and receptors in both cell lines and mouse models. It is these different receptors and associated pathways that contribute to cannabinoids potential as cancer therapies.

However, clinical data remains sparse and whist a THC trial in glioblastoma patients has shown promising results, the overall data was inconclusive.

One aspect that should be taken into account when considering the effect of cannabinoids on cancer is cannabinoids’ immunomodulatory effect, which could affect the body’s natural immune response to the tumour at the same time. Further studies are needed to understand this interplay to utilise fully the potential of cannabinoids as cancer treatments.

Inflammatory Disease

OCT is also exploring autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases. Inflammation is an evolutionary-conserved process that helps the body adjust and respond to a number of challenges, from environmental factors to cancer. However, when the immune system “revolts” against the body it can also cause debilitating diseases, including Crohn’s disease, lupus, and ulcerative colitis. An estimated 17.6m patients suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis world-wide and an estimated 37.5m from Psoriatic Arthritis.

Cannabinoids have shown to affect the immune system in various ways, including by affecting the proliferation, apoptosis and cytokine production of immune cells, and potentially acting as immune modulators. Data from preclinical studies in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic sclerosis, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis suggest that cannabinoids have therapeutic potential in immunological disorders.

However, so far clinical data for the treatment of rheumatic diseases with cannabinoids is scarce, demonstrating the need for more studies that improve our understanding of the role cannabinoids can play as immune modulators.

Neurological Disorders

Cannabinoids, their receptors, and metabolizing enzymes form an intricate network within the Central Nervous System. Debilitating degenerative neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease, or Alzheimer’s have a severe effect on patients’ quality of life. Of these, the effect of cannabinoids has been most investigated in MS and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of spasticity. However, more research is needed to understand the effect of cannabinoids on other indications.

The same is true for neurodegeneration: no cannabinoids tested so far have been able to halter neurodegeneration. As such, more pre-clinical studies are necessary to understand if the lack of efficacy is due to dosing, disease progression stage, or if cannabinoids are unable to modulate CB2 dependent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective actions.


 

 

We are constantly looking to expand our research and if you are a principal investigator interested in submitting a proposal for a research collaboration, please contact us.