Comforting Chemotherapy Patients
Millions of Canadians have been affected by the debilitating side effects of nausea and vomiting produced by cancer chemotherapy. While medication can now control the vomiting in about 60 to 70 per cent of people, stemming the nausea has proven to be much more difficult.
Canada Research Chair Linda Parker, a behavioural neuroscientist, pursues a program of research that cuts across the traditional boundaries of psychology, pharmacology, and neurobiology to deliver new findings that may well change the way cancer is treated.
One of Parker's innovations is the use of shrews and rats to gauge the effectiveness of anti-vomiting and anti-nausea agents; previously, scientists had no good non-human experimental subjects.
Using these animals, Parker has been able to test THC and cannabidiol, two compounds found in marijuana. Both suppress nausea and vomiting in the animals, but cannabidiol, unlike THC, is non-intoxicating. Establishing cannabidiol's anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties is thus a discovery that could have enormous clinical value.
Parker is also pursuing research on chemicals found naturally in the human body that mimic those in marijuana. These "endogenous cannabinoids," discovered in the 1990s, play a role not only in controlling nausea and vomiting, but also in such things as learning, memory, protection against stroke and cancer, appetite, reward and addiction.