An MS Society-funded trial assessing the effect of a cannabis ingredient on multiple sclerosis progression has won financial backing from the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.

The CUPID trial, which is looking at the potential use of tetrahydrocannabinol to slow down the progression of disability, has been awarded a donation of £120,000, which will be offset against the total cost of the five-year study, according to Lee Dunster, head of research and information at the MS Society.

MS is caused by damage to myelin - the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system - which interferes with messages between the brain and the body, and previous research with cannabinoids, particularly THC, has indicated that they could help prevent this nerve fibre damage and loss, according to the MS Society.

"The CUPID study is based on encouraging observations from a previous clinical trial and we are hopeful the eventual outcome will mean a better quality of life for people disabled by the devastating effects of MS,” Dunster explained.

No available therapy
There is currently no treatment that helps slow down the rate of disability available to MS sufferers, and the 500-patient CUPID study, led by Professor John Zajicek at Plymouth's Peninsula Medical School, is the only late-stage trial assessing an agent for neuro-protection in the condition.

Multiple sclerosis is the most common disabling neurological disorder affecting young adults, and an estimated 85,000 people in the UK the condition.

UK group GW Pharmaceuticals is currently assessing a cannabinoid-based therapy in MS spasticity and MS-related neuropathic pain, with a view filing the drug, called Sativex, for approval next year.