I’m not going to lie, coming back to work after the Christmas break was tough. Apart from the usual festivities, my wife was home from the UK after seeing her dad through chemo, so it was a particularly special festive season for our family after a rough few months.
Luckily, a story came into the Cannabiz newsroom this week which reminded me why I wake up worrying about what stories we have for the website and whether there are enough for Thursday’s newsletter.
As our chief correspondent Steve Jones writes elsewhere, US researchers have discovered inhaled CBD has the potential to shrink aggressive brain tumour glioblastoma by fighting the microenvironment that enables it to grow.
We write lots of stories about the potential therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis, and this study, carried out using mice, is a long way from proving it can cure brain cancer.
It’s promising, no more.
But as one of its authors, neurosurgeon Dr Martin Rutkowski, said, research is desperately needed, describing glioblastoma as “probably one of the most aggressive cancers, period”.
I can vouch for that, because my mum was diagnosed with one in 1995 and went from a woman holding down a good job in London to a shell in under 12 months, as a series of operations and radiotherapy failed to turn the tide.
Some 24 years since it killed her, on Christmas Eve 1997, I still find it difficult to talk — or write — about without crying.
Which is a long-winded way of saying the story reminded me why the success of this industry means so much to so many people.
When we first started planning Cannabiz, we spoke to a number of stakeholders and it struck me how many had a personal reason for getting involved in the sector. Not just campaigners like Lucy Haslam, but former patient-turned-medicinal-cannabis-entrepreneur Chad Walkaden, and at least one CEO of an ASX-listed company whose story I won’t tell because it’s not mine to share.
My mum died long before cannabis was anywhere near the medical agenda, but others have suffered — or seen close relatives suffer — knowing there are treatment options out there which have yet to be fully explored.
While Dr Rutkowski and team are focused on aggressive brain tumours, others concentrate on equally debilitating conditions, from Alzheimer’s and severe epilepsy, to autism and PTSD.
A bit like charities, most of us will have personal reasons for showing an interest in some indications more than others. I’ve written previously about how medicinal cannabis first came on my radar when my brother-in-law was prescribed Sativex to manage the spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and MS is another area I follow closely as a result.
Coincidentally, researchers at Leeds University in the UK are about to start a three-year phase II trial assessing the impact of Sativex on glioblastoma thanks to public donations to the Brain Tumour Charity.
But successful research in any area has the potential to transform — and save — lives.
Clearly, these treatments need to be scientifically validated, and subject to the same rigorous standards as any other medicine — the industry can only succeed by bringing mainstream healthcare professionals with it.
But in a sector where some are struggling to deliver a return for their investors, and others are battling to convince the government to give Australian companies a fair go, it’s worth remembering why we get out of bed in the morning.