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Therapies

UK to trial cannabis-based drug in treatment of brain tumours

A phase I study showed promising results in extending survival for patients

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In a world-first, a UK trial will test if a cannabis-based mouth spray can be used to treat aggressive brain tumours.

A major trial of cannabis-based drug Sativex in treating the most aggressive form of brain tumour is set to launch at 15 NHS hospitals around the UK.

The new phase II trial, led by the University of Leeds, will assess whether adding Sativex – an oral spray containing cannabinoids THC and CBD – to chemotherapy, could extend life for thousands diagnosed with a recurrent glioblastoma. 

Glioblastomas are the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer, with around 2,200 people diagnosed each year in England alone.

Almost all glioblastomas recur even after intensive treatment including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and average survival is just 12-18 months from first diagnosis.

Several pre-clinical laboratory studies have suggested that cannabinoids THC and CBD may reduce brain tumour cell growth and could disrupt the blood supply to tumours – but to date, clinical evidence that they could treat brain tumours has been limited.

Sativex, already used in treating multiple sclerosis, was found to be tolerable in combination with chemotherapy, with the potential to extend survival, in a phase I trial in glioblastomas earlier this year.

The phase I study observed that more patients who were given Sativex were alive after one year compared to those taking a placebo.

The next stage will measure whether adding Sativex to chemotherapy extends the overall length of patients’ lives, delays the progression of their disease or improves quality of life.

Experts hope that, should the trial prove successful, Sativex could represent one of the first additions to NHS treatment for glioblastoma patients since temozolomide chemotherapy in 2007.

Professor Susan Short, principal investigator on the trial and Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-Oncology at Leeds, said: “The treatment of glioblastomas remains extremely challenging. Even with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, nearly all of these brain tumours re-grow within a year, and unfortunately there are very few options for patients once this occurs.

“Glioblastoma brain tumours have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surfaces, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth and work particularly well when used with temozolomide.

“Having recently shown that a specific cannabinoid combination given by oral spray could be safely added to temozolomide chemotherapy, we’re really excited to build on these findings to assess whether this drug could help glioblastoma patients live longer in a major randomised trial.”

CBD studies for cancer treatment has been explored but if you are looking for a CBD treatment then
be wary when looking to purchase CBD oil online for this activity.

‘Life beyond a glioblastoma diagnosis’

Stephen Lee, 62 from Leyland in Lancashire, took part in the phase I trial of Sativex in 2015 after his glioblastoma returned following initial treatment.

Stephen was first diagnosed in 2010, just a few months after he had very sadly lost his older brother to the same disease.

He commented: “My diagnosis was very sudden and was one of those days you never forget.

“I joined the early trial of Sativex in the hope that it could improve my quality of life, but I also thought it was important to do so as the chemotherapy and radiotherapy I was having had all been trialled by other people before it could be used safely. I thought it only right and proper that I followed in their footsteps and joined a trial to help prove a new drug which could benefit so many people in the future with a recurring glioblastoma.

“I took the oral spray 10 times a day, and it was easy as I could take it wherever we were going, even while out for dinner. While I don’t know whether I had Sativex or the placebo, since the trial finished in 2016, all my MRI scans have been clear.

“This new trial is so important as it will give people hope that there could be life beyond a glioblastoma diagnosis and that there are other treatments being trialled to support them to live their lives.”

Funding appeal launched

The new three-year phase II trial, funded by The Brain Tumour Charity and co-ordinated by the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham, will begin recruiting more than 230 patients across all UK nations in early 2022, should it receive the funding required.

Having seen its income drop by more than 25 percent last year due to the pandemic, The Brain Tumour Charity has launched an appeal to raise the £450,000 needed to open the trial as soon as possible.

Dr David Jenkinson, interim CEO at The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We hope this trial could pave the way for a long-awaited new lifeline that could help offer glioblastoma patients precious extra months to live and make memories with their loved ones.

“With so few treatments available and average survival still so heartbreakingly short, thousands affected by a glioblastoma in the UK each year are in urgent need of new options and new hope.

“We know there is significant interest among our community about the potential activity of cannabinoids in treating glioblastomas, and we’re really excited that this world-first trial here in the UK could help accelerate these answers. The recent early-stage findings were really promising and we now look forward to understanding whether adding Sativex to chemotherapy could help offer life-extension and improved quality of life, which would be a major step forward in our ability to treat this devastating disease.

“Anyone affected by a glioblastoma can speak to us for support and information on 0808 800 0004 or by emailing support@thebraintumourcharity.org. If you need someone to talk to, we’re here for you.”

Therapies

Music therapy strikes a chord with traumatised emergency workers

The UK’s first pilot of its kind has delivered strong outcomes for participants as a way to deal with trauma

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The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra (BLSO), in collaboration with Chroma, has successfully completed a UK-first pilot project delivering group Music Therapy to emergency service workers to help them recover from traumatic experiences.

Working with Surrey and Sussex Police, Surrey and East Sussex Fire and Rescue and Southeast Coast Ambulance Service, the project delivered a bespoke music therapy program for emergency workers. It drew inspiration from the USA where music therapy is widely used to treat PTSD and trauma-related issues in army veterans.

The BLSO was awarded £10,000 funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, recognising that emergency workers have been exposed to increased levels of trauma while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 12 weeks, using a combination of psychodynamic music therapy, neurologic music therapy and dialectical behaviour techniques, emergency service personnel were able to experience, reflect, learn, and then transfer coping strategies into everyday life.

The group incorporated free improvisation, the learning of simple drumming techniques, blended with health and wellness education and interactive improvised music-making. Throughout the programme, the sense of camaraderie increased, alongside the enjoyment and playfulness that developed.

Seb Valentine, founder of the BLSO and serving Detective Sergeant with Surrey Police said: “We are extremely happy with the success of this project, bringing music therapy to emergency workers who develop mental health issues relating to the trauma they experience daily.

“Positive feedback from participants has meant we are planning to run another project in the Surrey Sussex area. I hope that when my colleagues see how successful this pilot was, it will reduce scepticism and encourage more to take advantage and benefit from the healing power of music.

“I would love to hear from any other emergency services organisations in England or Wales that would like to host a Music Therapy project. We are actively seeking funding opportunities and know that music therapy can help support the mental wellbeing of emergency service workers, so please do get in touch.”

Chroma will also be expanding the support, with the West Midlands Ambulance Service starting a similar project in May 2022.

Daniel Thomas, managing director at Chroma, added: “This was a wonderful project to be a part of. By the end of the 12 weeks, 71 per cent of the participants’ recorded reduced levels of distress compared to their CORE-OM scores when they signed up for the program.

“As a result of this success, we are pleased to be able to expand the project to offer more emergency service personnel vital support to support their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.”

For more information regarding hosting a music therapy project, contact: Seb Valentine on 0777 337 2575 or via email Seb@bluelightsymphony.org.

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Therapies

How song writing can support brain injury recovery

Arts therapy provider Chroma looks at how music therapy is helping people with psychological issues post-trauma

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Music therapy has once again proven itself effective in helping to support people with cognitive issues after brain injury, with song writing proving a powerful tool.

Sarah Morgan, a qualified music therapist at Chroma, uses song writing as a means to help those living with a brain injury, overcome cognitive issues such as trouble remembering, planning tasks, learning new information, sustaining attention, or dealing with emotions.

Loss of identity is a common emotion following a traumatic or acquired brain injury. Song writing lends itself to emotional expression when the victim has a decline in speech and language skills or has trouble discussing difficult memories.

For brain injury survivors, the process of song writing enables them to explore, question, and connect with their new sense of self and challenge the perception of how they see themselves versus how the world sees them.

A loss of identity following a brain injury ultimately negatively affects wellbeing. The transition from loss to acceptance takes time. Song writing offers a creative, identity-based exploration, which effectively helps to reveal issues in order to explore and make sense of them.

Sarah is currently supporting a young rapper who sustained a brain injury due to a road traffic accident (RTA), through song writing, improvisation and the use of music recording software. Her aim, and his own personal goal, is to help him begin to identify as himself once again.

Cognitively, song writing helps develop attention, concentration and task-planning and prioritisation skills. It also utilises working memory by allowing the client to repeat and manipulate phrases.

Engaging in making music focuses attention on a positive creative expression, and stimulates and induces the release of brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.  

Music plays an important role in providing a creative and emotional outlet and provides the client a positive focus. Song writing provides the client with a vessel to process trauma – by writing about the traumatic event or feelings surrounding it. 

In this particular case, creating new music enabled the client to re-connect with an integral part of himself – the rapper, which was a significant goal of his rehabilitation.

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Therapies

Paving the way for a digital future in neuro-rehab

The Virtually Successful conference is uniting therapists from around the world to promote the power of remote rehab

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An event which brings together therapists from across the world to analyse how the use of neuro-rehab innovation and digital therapy can benefit patients’ lives is being held next week.  

The first-of-its-kind Virtually Successful: Rehab in the New Normal event will reflect on the huge changes seen across neuro-rehab and healthcare since early 2020, and assess what the future now looks like for professionals and patients. 

Bringing together professionals from across the world, Virtually Successful has a five-day online programme – beginning on Monday – of insight from speakers who have helped to inspire, and have themselves been inspired by, the adoption of technology. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a digital approach to rehab adopted like never before, and has introduced many new ways of working into the sector. 

Many therapists now incorporate some form of technology in their work with patients – be it an app or gamified rehab programme, or use of remote monitoring – which they combine with traditional hands-on rehab, in a way that enables patients to play a greater role in their own recovery than ever before. 

Virtually Successful – supported by NR Times – is organised by Remote Rehab, a global community of therapists created during the pandemic to share best practice and experiences for the good of their patients, in what was an unknown new world of digital adoption for many. 

It has since grown into a thriving global platform for the sharing of knowledge, with a host of online resources, support groups, masterclasses, courses, techniques, tools and tips, designed to enable outstanding rehabilitation globally. 

Leanna Luxton, a neurophysiotherapist and co-founder of Remote Rehab, says the event will be of significant value both for those who are keen tech adopters, as well as those who are more sceptical. 

“I think we’re now at a time where we could put our heads in the sand and say ‘I’m done with this, I’m not doing it anymore, I’m going back to face to face’,” she says. 

“But as therapists, as much as we may want to do that personally, we have to consider the opportunities we may be missing for our clients in doing that.

“This conference is a call to action for all therapists to be at the forefront of the digital revolution. There are many possibilities in the blended approach to rehabilitation and many opportunities for ourselves, our patients and our services.”

Deborah Johnson, editor of NR Times, added: “Technology has played an absolutely crucial role in neuro-rehab over the past two years in enabling people to continue to rehabilitation remotely, and has helped therapists and patients alike to discover new-found possibilities in what could be achieved using digital tech. 

“Virtually Successful helps to showcase the amazing work that is being done in helping to continue to maximise the impact of remote rehab, with five days of insight and inspiration from some true leaders in their field from across the world. 

“The team at Remote Rehab have created a fantastic line-up and so much hard work has gone into organising this event, which is the first of its kind, and we at NR Times are delighted to lend our support.”

To sign up for Virtually Successful, at an NR Times reader discount rate, visit here

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