Medicinal Cannabis (MedCan 3): a randomised, multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to assess THC/CBD (1:20) to relieve symptom burden in patients with cancer-a study protocol for a randomised controlled trial


Trials. 2024 May 1;25(1):293. doi: 10.1186/s13063-024-08091-z.


BACKGROUND: Distressing symptoms are common in advanced cancer. Medicinal cannabinoids are commonly prescribed for a variety of symptoms. There is little evidence to support their use for most indications in palliative care. This study aims to assess a 1:20 delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol (THC/CBD) cannabinoid preparation in the management of symptom distress in patients with advanced cancer undergoing palliative care.

METHODS AND DESIGN: One hundred and fifty participants will be recruited across multiple sites in Queensland, Australia. A teletrial model will facilitate the recruitment of patients outside of major metropolitan areas. The study is a pragmatic, multicenter, randomised, placebo-controlled, two-arm trial of escalating doses of an oral 1:20 THC/CBD medicinal cannabinoid preparation (10 mg THC:200 mg CBD/mL). It will compare the efficacy and safety outcomes of a titrated dose range of 2.5 mg THC/50mgCBD to 30 mg THC/600 mg CBD per day against a placebo. There is a 2-week patient-determined titration phase, to reach a dose that achieves symptom relief or intolerable side effects, with a further 2 weeks of assessment on the final dose. The primary objective is to assess the effect of escalating doses of a 1:20 THC/CBD medicinal cannabinoid preparation against placebo on change in total symptom distress score, with secondary objectives including establishing a patient-determined effective dose, the effect on sleep quality and overall quality of life. Some patients will be enrolled in a sub-study which will more rigorously evaluate the effect on sleep.

DISCUSSION: MedCan-3 is a high-quality, adequately powered, placebo-controlled trial which will help demonstrate the utility of a THC:CBD 1:20 oral medicinal cannabis product in reducing total symptom distress in this population. Secondary outcomes may lead to new hypotheses regarding medicinal cannabis’ role in particular symptoms or in particular cancers. The sleep sub-study will test the feasibility of using actigraphy and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) in this cohort. This will be the first large-scale palliative care randomised clinical trial to utilise the teletrial model in Australia. If successful, this will have significant implications for trial access for rural and remote patients in Australia and internationally.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ANZCTR ACTRN12622000083796 . Protocol number 001/20. Registered on 21 January 2022. Recruitment started on 8 August 2022.

PMID:38693590 | DOI:10.1186/s13063-024-08091-z