Cannabis Patient Care - March/April 2021

Cannabis Patient Care - March/April 2021

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15 march/april 2021 | cannabis patient care patient focus Kevin left Ion Torrent and formed Medicinal Genomics Cor- poration (MGC) in 2011, which was acquired by Brendan and Brian's company Courtagen Life Sciences in 2012 (5), and be- gan working on sequencing the first cannabis genome after he was approached by a friend, who had lost multiple siblings to cancer at a relatively young age. Kevin began to explore ge- netic mutations and the potential treatment impacts of can- nabis use. Beyond its commonly known ability to reduce nau- sea for chemotherapy patients, he uncovered significant evidence, born from scientists around the globe, exploring cannabis' ability to reduce cancer cell proliferation and pro- mote cell destruction. Now all three brothers were working at the same company. "Kevin was one of the first to sequence the cannabis genome, and he made it public for the world to use so we could start understanding and building a foundation for the cannabis plant," said Brendan. The brothers brought their father in as chairman of the board. After the legalization of medicinal cannabis in Massa- chusetts in 2016, MGC gained significant momentum to devel- op pioneering technology for growers that strengthens can- nabis safety standards and increases productivity. But in 2017, all drivers of success for the brothers came to a grinding halt. Their dad, Richard, was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. The brothers then decided that it was time to reassess what they were doing, and potentially ramp up their work on using cannabis as a treatment option. A Trailblazing Father The devastating news of their father's diagnosis caused a moment of reflection for the family, which actually accelerated their work. They took their father's prostate genome and dis- covered a specific gene mutation that researchers said showed promise with various cannabinoids. "He had an mTOR and a BRAF mutation (6). These called for AKT inhibitors (which can reduce cancer cell growth), but there were none that had gone through the Food and Drug Administration," said Brendan. But there was a problem. Most of those AKT inhibitors were still in phase B clinical trials where researchers were working on the therapeutic efficacy of the inhibitors. "But if you hap- pen to Google AKT 1 inhibitors in cannabinoids, you'll find a bunch of scientific literature on its anti-neoplastic activity for the different cancer cell lines," Brendan explained. "We even- tually showed this data to my dad, who was very conservative. He didn't really want to go on cannabis, he didn't even drink alcohol. But after he looked at all the clinical literature, he agreed to try cannabis to help with his condition." Their father's situation was turning dire. He lost about 50 pounds and was wasting away. "His cancer spread to his whole bone structure and he had tremendous pain and nausea," Brendan said. But the day he was given cannabis, he ate like a king. "His nausea went away. His bone pain went away. He had a nice, rosy feeling for the first time in a very long time," Brendan commented. He was kept on that cannabis-based therapy. The types of cannabinoids and different terpenes were adjusted. Kevin made sure to test the purity of the cannabis before giving it to his father, eventually getting his company to in- vest in Pathoseek (7), a microbial detection system designed for testing cannabis flower, extracts, and infused products. He also worked on sequencing the genetics of cannabis strains to make sure they were getting the right compounds they want- ed to use, and built the first public database called Kannape- dia (8) that catalogs with genetic certainty the origins of thou- sands of cannabis strains and their relationships to other identified strains. Eventually, a cocktail for their father's therapy was found—a mixture of several cannabinoids: cannabigerol (CBG), Richard McKernan (left) and Brendan McKernan (right) at Brendan's 2018 wedding. Photo credit: Birch Blaze Photography.

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