Kristina Etter   |   November 28, 2018

Cancer and Cannabis – Clinical Trials to Begin

While the debate about cannabis and cancer has been ongoing for the better part of the legalization movement, one Northwestern pharmaceutical company is partnering with the University of Washington in hopes to provide the answer finally.
Kristina Etter spent 20 years in corporate IT with a niche in mobile technology and IoT in agriculture. Today, she combines her love of technology with a passion for cannabis as the Editorial Director for Cannabis Tech.

Just last week, the University of Washington, School of Medicine and Pascal Biosciences, Inc. (TSX.V: PAS) announced a joint licensing agreement which hopes to receive FDA approval for a cannabinoid-based cancer treatment as early as next year. With help from CoMotion, UW’s collaborative innovation hub, to negotiate the deal between UW and Pascal, the agreement allows for research with commercial development milestones and covers ST-403 and all related compounds.

Tales of Chemo Past

Dr. Nephi Stella, professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at UW, as well as, the head of Stella Lab and founder/co-director for the Center for Cannabis Research at the university. Researching the medical application of cannabinoids for nearly two decades, Stella is particularly interested in two devastating forms of cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, and melanoma metastases, aggressive brain tumors with few effective types of treatment. Prognosis with this diagnosis is fatal, and the median survival rate is only 12 to 17 months.

According to statistics provided by the National Brain Tumor Society, the disease affects around 15,000 people each year. Unfortunately, the only FDA approved method of treatment is over 50 years old.

Oncologists previously used Temozolomide, which causes DNA damage to the affected area to treat the disease. As the only chemotherapy treatment currently approved for the tumors, it typically only extends the life of the patient by a couple of months. The problem lies in the inability of many traditional therapeutics to pass the blood-brain barrier, a task in which cannabinoids excel.

According to an interview with Science in the City, Stella stated, “[THC molecules] kill cancer cells, but they’re not very good at it.” So, Stella partnered with Dr. Philippe Diaz of the University of Montana to chemically modify the THC molecule to help it be more efficient.

The Birth of ST-403

Reportedly 300 times more effective than THC at killing cancer cells, even the National Cancer Institute reports they’re impressed with resulting compound named, ST-403. Stating "they've never seen anything like it." 

“I believe the ST-403 program has great potential to help patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, brain metastases, and other devastating cancers,” said Dr. Stella in an interview with APNews. “I’m excited to have Pascal advancing this promising program and, furthermore, I am honored to help with the future development of Pascal’s broad immune-oncology program, as I believe cannabinoid-based compounds have great potential when combined with checkpoint inhibitors.”

How It Works

As a mitosis inhibitor, ST-403 blocks cell division and disrupts microtubules. Other cancer drugs exhibit a similar effect including paclitaxel and vinblastine, but these drugs do not cross the blood-brain barrier and have little positive results on these types of brain cancers. Working synergistically with other chemotherapy options, studies on mice show the ST compound can reduce tumor size, extend life, and has a significantly safer profile.

Clinical Trials Begin

Pascal Biosciences hopes to begin clinical trials on humans with ST-403 as soon as next year. In a press release, Dr. Patrick Gary, CEO of Pascal stated, “ST-403 is a very promising therapeutic candidate that is an ideal fit with our cannabinoid immune activation program that we announced in February.” He continued, “Both programs have great potential in treating cancer, and we are fortunate to have access to and support from Dr. Stella to help facilitate the advancement of this great science into meaningful therapeutics for cancer.”

About Pascal Biosciences Inc.

Pascal Biosciences, a biotechnology company, focuses on innovative approaches in cancer treatments including cannabinoid-based therapeutics and targeted therapies. Pascal Biosciences is also developing a B-cell targeted antibody for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and an antibody for calcium channels expressed by the immune system. For more information, visit


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