The following information is presented for educational purposes only.
Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding
of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites
do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana
Inc. and none should be inferred.
Cancer is a potentially fatal disease caused by abnormal cells in the body
that divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Studies
have shown marijuana has the capability of helping cancer patients manage
the nausea, pain, and weight loss related to cancer treatments, and even
limit the growth or kill cancer cells.
Overview of Cancer
Cancer is a general name used to classify a large group of diseases that
start because of abnormal cells growing out of control. Normal body cells
are continuously growing, dividing, and dying. When cells in a part of the
body begin to grow out of control, it is diagnosed as cancer. Cancer cells
will continue to grow, rather than die, and they can invade other tissues.
Most of the time, cancer cells form a tumor, which can in turn invade nearby
normal tissue and crowd it out or push it aside. The cancer cells will often
travel to other parts of body, a process referred to as metastasis, through
the bloodstream of lymph vessels. According to the American Cancer Society,
there are over 1.6 million new cases in the United States every year, and if
left untreated, cancers can cause serious illness and death.
Cancer is considered a genetic disease because it is caused by changes to
the genes that control the way our cells function. Although these changes
can be inherited, they can also arise during a person’s lifetime. There are
more than 100 different types of cancers, which are commonly named for the
organs or tissues from where they form.
Treatment of cancer varies depending on the location of cancer and how far
it’s advanced. However, there are a number of primary types of cancer
treatment: including, surgery, which involves removing the cancerous tumor;
radiation therapy, which uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells
and shrink tumors; chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells;
immunotherapy, which helps your immune system fight cancer; hormone therapy,
which slows or stops the growth of cancer that uses hormones to grow;
targeted therapy, which targets the changes in cancer cells that help them
grow and divide; and stem cell transplant, which involves a procedure that
restores blood-forming stem cells in people who have had theirs destroyed by
high doses of cancer treatments.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Cancer
Recent evidence suggests that cannabis has the potential of inhibiting the
growth of and even killing cancer cells. Two of the major cannabinoids found
in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), activate the
cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB1 & CB2) of the endocannabinoid
system. Activation of the CB1 receptor by THC has been found to reduce
nausea and pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, it’s
also been discovered that, when activated, CB1 and CB2 receptors can act as
antitumor agents in a number of aggressive cancers. CBD has been shown to
inhibit the progression of cancers located in the breast, lung, prostate,
and colon in animal models, suggesting that CBD would also be effective at
mediating cancer cell death in human subjects (McAllister, Soroceanu &
Desprez, 2015) (Orellana-Serradell, et al., 2015) (Ligresti et al., 2006).
CBD acid (CBDA), , the acidic precursor of CBD, has shown the capability of
down-regulating invasive human breast cancer cells and therefore preventing
their growth (Takeda, et al., 2014). In 2016, the same team of researchers
again found CBDA to effectively inhibit the migration of breast cancer cells
and were able to identify the effect to be associated with the cannabinoid’s
downregulation of the proto-oncogene c-fos and the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2
(Takeda, et al., 2016).
Cannabis has long demonstrated it can provide relief for patients suffering
from nausea related to cancer treatments. Studies have found that CBD is
effective at treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea, as
well as preventing anticipatory nausea in chemotherapy patients
(Parker, Rock & Limbeer, 2011) (Machado Rocha, et al., 2008). Another study
found that THC was also effective at reducing conditioned rejection and
chemotherapy-induced nausea (Limebeer & Parker, 1999).
Cannabis has also been shown to be effective at lowering neuropathic pain
that traditional treatment was unable to manage (Wilsey, et al., 2013). In
one study, cancer patients with intractable pain who had previously and
unsuccessfully tried to manage their discomfort with opioids saw significant
reductions in pain levels after being treated with cannabis containing both
THC and CBD after two weeks (Johnson, et al., 2010).
After examining the available literature, a recent research review concluded
that cannabis possesses anti-tumor properties and is effective at offering
pain, nausea, and vomiting relief for patients with cancer (Wilkie, Sakr &
Weight loss due to nausea and a loss of appetite are common side effects of
cancer treatment. However, THC has shown to significantly stimulate appetite
in patients that have cachexia related to cancer (Nelson, Walsh, Deeter &
Sheehan, 1994) (Jatoi, et al., 2002) (Nauck & Klaschik, 2004). In addition,
patients treated with THC have a larger appetite and report that food
“tastes better” (Brisbois, et al., 2011). The ability to stimulate appetite
in cancer patients is significant in helping to prevent wasting syndrome
related to cancer treatments.
A survey study analyzing the effects of cannabis in 131 cancer patients
after six to eight weeks of treatment found significant improvements in all
of the measured cancer-related symptoms, which included nausea, vomiting,
mood disorders, fatigue, weight loss, anorexia, constipation, sexual
function, sleep disorders, itching, and pain (Bar-Sela, et al., 2013).
Patients treated with THC also experience higher quality sleep and
relaxation (Brisbois, et al., 2011). The National Cancer Institute, an
organization run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
currently recognizes cannabis as an effective treatment for providing relief
of a number of symptoms associated with cancer, including pain, nausea and
vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite.
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Cancer
Nearly all states with medical marijuana laws have approved cannabis
specifically for the treatment of cancer. These states include: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois,Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New
Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Vermont and Washington.
Although the state of Maryland hasn’t
approved medical marijuana to treat cancer, it has approved it for the
treatment of nausea and chronic pain, which are two symptoms commonly
associated with cancer treatment.
any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed
physician recommends the treatment.
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ effect on Cancer
CBDA inhibits the migration of breast cancer cells.
Cannabidiolic acid-mediated selective down-regulation of c-fos in highly
aggressive breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells: possible involvement of its
down-regulation in the abrogation of aggressiveness.
Research review concludes cannabis has anti-tumor effects and is
effective at reducing pain, nausea, and vomiting induced by
Medical Marijuana Use in Oncology: A Review
Animal studies have shown that the cannabis-derived cannabinoid, CBD,
inhibits the progression of many types of cancer (glioblastoma, breast,
lung, prostate, colon).
The Anti-tumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids.
Cannabis causes significant improvement in nausea, vomiting, mood
disorders, fatigue, weight loss, anorexia, constipation, sexual
function, sleep disorders, itching, and pain, in cancer patients after
six to eight weeks of use.
The Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis: Prospective, Observational
Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients on Supportive or
Brisbois, T.D., de Kock, I.H., Watanabe, S.M., Mirhosseini, M., Lamoureux,
D.C., Chasen, M., MacDonald, N., Baracos, V.E., and Wismer, W.V. (2011,
February 22). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol may palliate altered chemosensory
perception in cancer patients: results of a randomized-double-blind,
placebo-controlled pilot trial. Annals
of Oncology, 22, 2086-2093.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ). (2015, July 15). National
Cancer Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq.
Estimated Number of New Cancer Cases and Deaths by Sex, US, 2015. (2015). American
Cancer Society. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044514.pdf.
Bar-Sela, G., Vorobeichik, M., Drawsheh, S., Omer, A., Goldberg, V., and
Muller, E. (2013). The Medical Necessity for Medicinal Cannabis:
Prospective, Observational Study Evaluating the Treatment in Cancer Patients
on Supportive or Palliative Care. Evidence-Based
Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 510392. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/510392/.
Jatoi, A., Windschitl, H.E., Loprinzi, C.L., Sloan, J.A., Dakhil, S.R.,
Mailliard, J.A., Pundaleeka, S., Kardinal, C.G., Fitch, T.R., Krook, J.E.,
Novotny, P.J. and Christensen, B. (2002). Dronabinol versus megestrol
acetate versus combination therapy for cancer-associated anorexia: a North
Central Cancer Treatment Group study. Journal
of Clinical Oncology, 20(2), 567-73.
Johnson, J.R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E.D., Potts,
R., and Fallon, M.T. (2010, February). Multicenter, double-blind,
randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy,
safety, and tolerability of THC: CBD extract and THC extract in patients
with intractable cancer-related pain. Journal
of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 167-79.
Ligresti, A., Moriello, A.S., Starowicz, K., Matias, I., Pisanti, S., De
Petrocellis, L., Laezza, C., Portella, G., Bifulco, M., and Di Marzo, V.
(2006, September). Antitumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on
the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma. Journal
of Pharacologogy and Experimental Therapeutics, 318(3), 1375-87.
Limebeer, C.L., and Parker, L.A. (1999, December 16).
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol interferes with the establishment and the
expression of conditioned rejection reactions produced by cyclophosphamide:
a rat model of nausea. Neuroreport,
Machado Rocha, F.C., Stefano, S.C., De Cassia Haiek, R., Rosa Oliveira,
L.M., and Da Silveira, D.X. (2008, September). Therapeutic use of Cannabis
sativa on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients:
systematic review and meta-analysis. European
Journal of Cancer Care, 17(5), 431-43.
McAllister, S.D., Soroceanu, L., and Desprez, P.Y. (2015, June). The
Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids. Journal
of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 10(2), 255-67.
Nauck, F., Klaschik,E. (2004, June). Cannabinoids in the treatment of the
cachexia-anorexia syndrome in palliative care patients. Schmerz,
Nelson, K., Walsh, D., Deeter, P. and Sheehan, F. (1994). A phase II study
of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation in
cancer-associated anorexia. Journal
of Palliative Care, 10(1), 14-8.
Orellana-Serradell, O., Poblete, CE., Sanchez, C., Castellon, E.A.,
Gallegos, I., Huidobro, C., Llanos, M.N., and Contreras, H.R. (2015, April).
Proapoptotic effect of endocannabinoids in prostate cancer cells. Oncology
Reports, 33(4), 1599-608.
Parker, L.A., Rock, E.M., and Limbeer, C.L. (2011, August). Regulation of
nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British
Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1411-22.
Takeda, S., Okazaki, H., Ikeda, E., Abe, S., Yoshioka, Y, Watanabe, K., and
Aramaki, H. (2014). Down-regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) by
cannabidiolic acid in human breast cancer cells. The
Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 39(5), 711-6.
Takeda, S., Himeno, T., Kakizoe, K., Okazaki, H., Okada, T., Watanabe, K.,
and Aramaki, H. (2016, August 16). Cannabidiolic acid-mediated selective
down-regulation of c-fos in highly aggressive breast cancer MDA-MB-231
cells: possible involvement of its down-regulation in the abrogation of
of Natural Medicines, [Epub ahead of print], doi:
What Is Cancer? (2015, April 15). American
Cancer Society. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/what-is-cancer.
What Is Cancer? (2015, February 9). National
Cancer Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/what-is-cancer.
Wilkie, G., Sakr, B., and Rizack, T. Medical Marijuana Use in Oncology. JAMA
Oncology, 2(5), 670-675.
Wilsey, B., Marcotte, T., Deutsch, R., Gouaux, B., Sakai, S., and Donaghe,
H. (2013, February). Low-dose vaporized cannabis significantly improves
neuropathic pain. The
Journal of Pain, 14(2), 136-48.
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