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Further evidence for cannabis medicine in severe epilepsy

Medicinal cannabis oil containing both CBD and a small amount of THC can reduce or end seizures in children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy, new research suggests.

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A study, by the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, found that children with severe epilepsy also experienced improvements in their quality of life after taking low doses of the medicinal cannabis oil.

Researchers tested the effects of medicinal cannabis oil with 95 per cent CBD, which does not create a high, and 5 percent THC, the substance which can be intoxicating in large enough doses. 

Studying an evidence-based scientifically guided dosage regimen, the research team found no evidence of THC intoxication when using CBD-enriched whole plant extracts. 

“What makes these results really exciting is it opens up as a treatment option for kids who have failed to respond to traditional medications,” said Dr. Richard Huntsman, a paediatric neurologist who led the study. 

Three of the seven children in the study stopped having seizures altogether. 

“Some of the improvements in quality of life were really dramatic with some of the children having huge improvements in their ability to communicate with their families. Some of these children started to talk or crawl for the first time. They became more interactive with their families and loved ones,” said Dr. Huntsman. 

Several studies have shown that cannabis products containing CBD can be effective in helping to control seizures in children with epileptic encephalopathy, a severe form of epilepsy which begins in childhood.

Despite this, many children cannot access these products because there is very little guidance for physicians on which doses to use and some health-care providers are concerned about possible intoxication from THC. 

This research found that most of the children had a reduction in seizures with a twice daily dose of CBD totaling 5-6 milligrams of cannabis extract per kilogram of weight (mg/kg) per day. By the time a CBD dose of 10-12 mg/kg per day was achieved, all children experienced a reduction in their seizures, most by more than 50 per cent. 

“What is really important is that we have been able to dispel in a scientific manner some of the concerns about how to dose these products and the possibility of them causing a ‘high’ in these children. We did this by slowly increasing the dose of cannabis extract in a very tightly regulated manner. We watched the children very closely for side effects and measured blood levels of CBD and THC,” said Dr. Huntsman, 

The children had drug-resistant epilepsy, failing to respond to at least two forms of anti-convulsant medication.

They had been prescribed several anti-convulsant medications yet continued to have seizures, with one child experiencing 1,223 in the month leading up to the study. 

Allyssa Sanderson’s eight-year-old son Ben was one of the participants in the study. Ben was born without complications, but later developed infantile spasms. When Ben was two, he was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.

Despite trying multiple medications and treatments, Ben’s seizures were unpredictable. He was seizure-free on some days, but on others had 150 seizures a day.

“Ben was very lethargic and would just lay there and have seizures all day. He wasn’t active and didn’t even want to eat. His eyes looked dull, and he didn’t focus on anything. He really looked lifeless,” Allyssa explained. “I knew this trial was a last resort for my son.”

Once Ben started taking CBD, he began showing improvements in his seizure frequency and then became seizure-free during the study.

“I was seeing the change in Ben every single day. I was thankful as I watched his little personality come out. He was back to his silly self that I hadn’t seen in years. He was stronger. I believe this research is one of the greatest things to happen for kids with epilepsy,” Allyssa said.


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Olympic champion Tom Daley appeals for funding for ‘groundbreaking’ brain tumour drug

Olympic champion diver, Tom Daley joins Brain Charity to appeal for funding for a groundbreaking cannabis drug trial for brain cancer

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Olympic champion Tom Daley in a black tuxedo promoting a new trial into cannabis based drugs for brain cancer

Tom Daley has joined The Brain Tumour Charity appeal to call for more funding for a ‘groundbreaking’ trial of a cannabis-based drug that could help to treat an aggressive form of cancer.

The Olympic champion lost his father, Robert who died from a brain tumour aged 40 in 2011.

The appeal by the Brain Tumour Charity hopes to raise the £450,000 which is needed to fund the three-year trial. It will begin recruiting 232 patients at 15 hospitals across the UK early next year.

Olympic champion support

In a video, Tom said: “We are reaching out to all you individual heroes and supporters, to help fund this groundbreaking trial. When you donate, you’ll receive a link for your social media badge of honour. Join our community, spread the word and help us pave the way to beating brain tumours”.

Tom has been advocating and campaigning for charity since the loss of his father. He recently raffled off a jumper he made helping to raise £5,787 in 14 days. The Olympic champion diver was seen knitting a dog sweater at one of the recent swimming events. He took up knitting to help with his mental health and stress during lockdown.

Read more about the study here

The study

The study led by the University of Leeds and coordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham will examine if adding Sativex to chemotherapy could extend life for people diagnosed with recurrent glioblastoma or delay the progression of the disease. Sativex is a cannabis-based drug normally prescribed to MS patients.

If the trial is successful, it could be one of the first additions to NHS treatment for glioblastoma patients in more than a decade.

The condition is one of the most common and aggressive forms of brain cancer. There are currently 2,200 people diagnosed in England each year.

Read more: Study suggests long-term Covid symptoms could be rare in school-age children

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Could our driving help to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

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A person driving while holding the steering wheel with both hands

Researchers have combined Global Positioning System-based (GPS) with AI to detect early-onset Alzheimer’s in drivers, revealing a high level of accuracy in diagnosis.

The DRIVES Study at Washington University in St. Louis, led by Catherine Roe and Ganesh Babulal and funded by the National Institute on Aging.

They proposed that those who had been diagnosed would make different decisions when driving in comparison to those without the disease. Alzheimer drivers may drive for shorter periods of time, stick to commonly used routes, travel less at night and make abrupt changes to their driving.

AI has the advantage of being able to read from large amounts of cases and diagnoses without bias or judgement. It is thought that this could lead to more correct diagnosis.

Read more: Supercomputer enables new levels of brain insight

The study

Researchers selected 139 people in Missouri US to have a GPS unit installed in their cars for one year. The data collected was fed into a custom AI system designed using Python to assess patterns in driving.

Half of the selected individuals had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while the other half were healthy. Those in the positive group had been tested using medical methods such as spinal fluid tests and PET scans.

Driving results

The results of the experiment showed a detection accuracy of 82 per cent. The model was more accurate still (90%) when it also added in the results of a genetic test for Alzheimer’s known as apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotyping that indicates whether you may have an inherited risk for the disease.s. It was noted that all participants were over the age of 65 which means the study may not work on younger people who do not have symptoms.

Larger, randomised studies are needed to show a definitive link between the detected driving behaviours and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

The US National Institute on Aging says family members might eventually notice that their loved one is taking longer to complete a simple trip, has been driving more erratically, or gets muddled over which pedal is which, for example.

Read more: Maximum of 10 headers a week in football training, the new guidance recommends

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More retired rugby players report concussion than any other injury

Concussion is the most common injury among retired rugby athletes, according to new research.

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Researchers from Durham University and Auckland University of Technology compared the injuries of retired rugby athletes with retired non-contact athletes.

They found that retired elite rugby athletes reported up to seven times the number of injuries than those who played amateur rugby and non-contact sports, and concussion was the most commonly reported injury, and had the most common recurrence, for both groups of rugby players compared to non-contact athletes.

Among retired rugby athletes, 81 per cent of elite and 76 per cent of amateur players reported at least one concussion, and concussion injury had the highest recurrence.

The rugby athletes, who were all code athletes, which means they played rugby union or rugby league, were also up to 10 times more likely to report experiencing a lasting impact of previous concussion, among other injuries, including back and joint pain.

The researchers concluded that past participation in rugby union and rugby league, particularly at elite level, is linked to a higher risk of cumulative injuries and a continued impact of previous injuries after retiring from the game.

Retired elite rugby code players reported that previous concussions had a negative impact on their current health, the researchers found.

They urge that there should be more efforts to reduce injuries in rugby codes at all levels, given such a high number of concussions.

“The monitoring of injuries at the player level rather than at club level could be one approach to improving the management of injury for individualised player welfare,” the paper, published today in the journal Sports Medicine, states.

“This could include a system by which the individual player’s injury history can be followed as they move across professional club contracts, and specific strength and conditioning and sports therapy strategies prescribed to help prevent recurrence of injury.”

This is the first study to examine total injuries across entire careers of contact sport athletes, according to the researchers, and the reported effects on physical wellbeing post-retirement.

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