The first patient has been treated in the trial of a new drug that might help people suffering from mesothelioma-related weight loss.
The drug is a synthetic cannabinoid called ART27.13. A cannabinoid is a compound that acts on the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. There are a number of cannabinoid drugs on the market. But several of them have significant side effects, including effects on the brain.
Preclinical data on ART27.13 suggest that it may stimulate the appetite and counter mesothelioma-related weight loss with fewer unwanted side effects. The Cancer Appetite Recovery Study (CAReS) is a Phase I trial to test it in people.
The Danger of Mesothelioma-Related Weight Loss
Over 60 percent of late-stage cancer patients lose their appetites. This is also called anorexia. People with mesothelioma may not feel like eating. Mesothelioma treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can make patients feel sick, leading to further weight loss.
Mesothelioma-related weight loss can be serious. Anorexic patients may become weak and dehydrated. The problem can weaken the immune system and hurt patients’ quality of life. Cancer patients who are severely underweight face a worse prognosis.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines contain no standard of care for mesothelioma-related weight loss. There are some drugs that doctors can use off-label to treat the problem. One of these is another cannabinoid called Dronabinol.
But most of the existing drugs used for cancer-related anorexia are not very effective. Several also cause unwanted side effects. Early data suggests that ART27.13 is different.
“So many patients have suffered with substandard options to address the profound weight loss from cancer,” writes lead investigator Barry J.A. Laird, MD, of Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. “With ART27.13 there are grounds for optimism that loss of appetite associated with cancer can be successfully treated.”
ART27.13 and the Endocannabinoid System
ART27.13 acts on the endocannabinoid system. There are many molecules in nature that can also act on this system and potentially stimulate appetite.
“However, these molecules are not optimized,” Artelo Biosciences scientific advisor Saoirse O’Sullivan explained in an interview with Outsourcing-Pharma. “Many are very insoluble and poorly absorbed in the body. Some are not very potent. Many are found in tiny quantities in nature.”
Synthetic cannabinoids can be manipulated to increase their impact while decreasing their side effects. This may enhance their ability to fight mesothelioma-related weight loss.
ART27.13 was originally in development by AstraZeneca as a pain reliever. They called it AZD1940. It was not as effective as the company had hoped so they abandoned the project.
But scientists at Artelo Biosciences noticed that the drug caused rapid weight gain in the original test subjects. These patients had no other serious or ongoing side effects. If it works, ART27.13 could be a breakthrough for people with mesothelioma-related weight loss.
“Notably, we anticipate that we will be able to collect initial safety data from Phase 1 of CAReS before the end of this year, which will determine the most effective and safest dose of ART27.13 to utilize in Phase 2 of the study,” says Andrew Yates, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Artelo.
“Artelo Biosciences Doses First Patient in CAReS Study with ART27.13 for the Treatment of Cancer-Related Anorexia and Weight Loss”, April 12, 2021, News Release, Artelo Biosciences website, https://ir.artelobio.com/news-events/press-releases/detail/60/artelo-biosciences-doses-first-patient-in-cares-study-with
Spinner, Jenni, “Study explores synthetic cannabinoid for cancer-related anorexia”, April 20, 2021, https://www.outsourcing-pharma.com/Article/2021/04/20/Study-explores-synthetic-cannabinoid-for-cancer-anorexia?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright