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Showing posts from May, 2018

Would You Like Marijuana with Your Chemotherapy?

I am frequently asked, as a pharmacist who specialises in cancer medicine, what do I think about the use of marijuana for medical conditions?

I often reflect back to dispensing dronabinol (a synthetic THC product) for chemotherapy induced nausea and HIV related wasting syndrome, when I first started working as a pharmacist in a hospital in the early 90s.  Back then it was no big deal, the hospital pharmacy imported the medication from overseas, just like we did many other medications which were not marketed in Australia, and supplied it on a doctor’s prescription.
We didn’t stop supplying it because it was difficult to get hold of, rather it just wasn’t very useful any more.  New anti-nausea medications came on the market, and these were much more effective at controlling the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and, a new class of medications known as antiretrovirals became available and these were so effective at treating HIV we thankfully were no longer seeing the devast…

The New Super Heros of Cancer Treatment - Immunotherapy

There have been many advances in cancer treatments since I started working in the area of cancer care, nearly 30 years ago.  Back then, patients with metastatic colon cancer were treated with a simple (but reasonably ineffective) chemotherapy regimen and the average life expectancy was 6 months.  Now the treatment is more complex, uses new medications, and the life expectancy is 5-fold!
So, what has changed.  Essentially, many of the advances made over the last 10-15 years have come down to a new class of medications called immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy, or the use of medications to modify the body’s own immune system to treat illness, is such an exciting development.  Immunotherapy is not only being used to treat cancer, but many other illnesses as well, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
The body’s immune system is truly remarkable.  A finely tuned, interconnected "ecosystem" of hundreds or maybe even thousands of parts. The immune system…