Palliative care specialist to lead cannabis trial

Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward have announced that Australia’s first medical cannabis trial for terminally ill adults will be led by UNSW Chief Investigator A/Prof Meera Agar, who is also Director of Palliative Care at HammondCare’s Braeside Hospital. Watch video

“This trial is all about compassion. If medical cannabis helps reduce pain and other symptoms, making life more comfortable for someone who is dying, then it should be considered as part of the care mix,” A/Prof Cole said.HammondCare’s Chief Medical Officer, A/Prof Andrew Cole, today welcomed the trial and congratulated A/Prof Agar on her involvement.

“HammondCare is a leading provider of palliative care services and is committed to encouraging research that leads to better treatment and care for people facing their last days.”

Focus on loss of appetite

A/Prof Agar said the trial would focus on loss of appetite – a highly prevalent symptom that causes great distress for palliative patients and their families but which has limited treatment options. Other symptoms to be addressed include fatigue, pain, low mood, weight loss, nausea and insomnia.

“Valuing good evidence is really important to improve the care of people who have advanced illness. This clinical trial is acknowledging a huge investment in improving care for people with terminal illness in NSW.” 

Use of vapour 'one of first in the world'

A/Prof Agar said the trial was innovative because it would be one of the first in the world to use a leaf cannabis product using a vapouriser.

“This delivery system could more easily translate into mainstream medical practice. The vapouriser allows the delivery of the active cannabis agent without the toxins and the smoke,” she said.

The trial will conducted by a collaborative team, led by A/Prof Agar as UNSW Chief Investigator, and is part of the NSW Government’s $9 million commitment to support medical cannabis clinical trials. HammondCare’s Dr Melanie Lovell is also one of the investigators on the team.

Strong palliative care research record

A/Prof Agar has previously won the Premiers’ Innovation in Cancer Clinical Trials (2011), the European Association of Palliative Care’s Early Researcher Award (2013) and an American Geriatrics Society poster award for delirium research.

She is one of a large number of palliative care medical, nursing and allied health staff across HammondCare’s Health and Hospitals involved in wide-ranging palliative care research.

A/Prof Agar said the research was well aligned with her role with HammondCare which has been a leading collaborative site in palliative care clinical trials since 2006.

"HammondCare supports robust research which is directed at improving the quality of life of those with life limiting illness, and that is what this trial is about." 

VIDEO: A/Prof Meera Agar can be seen discussing this project with Premier Mike Baird (on his left) in this video posted on the Premier's twitter feed.


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HammondCare is an independent Christian charity specialising in health and aged care, with a particular emphasis on dementia care and palliative care.