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Cancer – Medical Marijuana Research Overview

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 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 term used to classify a large group of diseases that develop because of abnormal cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Normal body cells continuously grow, divide and die. Cancer cells will continue to grow, rather than die, and they can invade and damage other tissues. Most of the time, cancer cells form a tumor, which can invade nearby normal tissue and crowd it out or push it aside. In a process referred to as metastasis, cancer cells can travel to other parts of body through the bloodstream of lymph vessels. If left untreated, cancers can cause serious illness and death. According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the United States every year.

Cancer is considered a genetic disease because it is associated with changes to the genes that control the way our cells function. Although these changes can be inherited, they can also develop 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.

Evidence suggests that cannabis has the potential of inhibiting the growth of and even killing cancer cells. Cannabis has also demonstrated efficacy at helping patients manage the side effects associated with cancer treatments113.

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Cannabis & Cancer What Research has Found

Cannabis’s Potential in the Global Cancer Market

Major Findings

While most studies investigating cannabis’ therapeutic potential for cancer have been preclinical, findings have shown exciting promise. Both of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) — have shown efficacy at inhibiting the progression of cancer. In culture and animal models, the cannabinoids have limited the growth and even killed cancerous cells in the breast, lung, prostate, skin, and colon, suggesting potential for mediating cancer cell death in human subjects20,38,56,66,78.

CBD acid (CBDA), the acidic precursor of CBD, in one study down-regulated and prevented the growth of invasive human breast cancer cells104. In 2016, the same team of researchers again found CBDA to effectively inhibit the migration of breast cancer cells and further identified that anti-cancer effect to be associated with the cannabinoid’s downregulation of the proto-oncogene c-Fos and the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2105.

Cannabis has also long proven beneficial for managing the symptoms associated with the disease and its treatments. CBD has proven effective at treating the more difficult to control symptoms of nausea, as well as preventing anticipatory nausea, in patients undergoing chemotherapy59,80. Another study found THC was effective at reducing conditioned rejection and chemotherapy-induced nausea57.

Cannabis has also been shown effective at lowering neuropathic pain that traditional treatment methods were unable to manage121. In one study, cancer patients suffering from intractable pain who found no relief with opioids saw significant reductions in pain levels after being treated with cannabis containing both THC and CBD for two weeks50.

Weight loss due to nausea and a loss of appetite are common side effects of cancer treatment. THC, however, has shown to significantly stimulate appetite in patients that have cachexia related to cancer49,74. In addition, patients treated with THC have a larger appetite and report that food “tastes better”11. Patients treated with THC also experience higher quality sleep and relaxation13.

A survey analyzing the effects of cannabis in 131 cancer patients found significant improvements in all of the measured cancer-related symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, mood disorders, fatigue, weight loss, anorexia, constipation, sexual function, sleep disorders, itching, and pain4. 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 appetite17.

CBDA Fights Breast Cancer, Study Finds (August 26, 2016)

CBDA Fights Breast Cancer, Study Finds (August 26, 2016)

Published Clinical Studies

25% Of Cancer Patients Use Marijuana Where It’s Legal, Study Finds (October 5, 2017)

Study Finds Cannabis Has Anti-Tumor Effects (June 30, 2017)

Cannabinoids a Potential “Weapon” Against Cancer, Review Concludes (June 16, 2017)

CBD Fights Cancer Through Various Mechanisms, Review Finds (June 15, 2017)

Study Examines How Cannabinoids Elicit Anti-Cancer Effects (June 12, 2017)

How Does Cannabis Fit into Cancer Care? A Study Investigates (June 9, 2017)

Cannabinoids and Chemotherapy Combine for Superior Anti-Leukemia Effects, Study Finds (June 7, 2017)

Review Investigates Cannabinoids for Treating Children with Cancer (May 22, 2017)

Study Says CBD is Potentially Beneficial for Fighting Cervical Cancer Cells (May 19, 2017)

CBD Helps Treat Neuroblastoma in Kids, Study Suggests (May 18, 2017)

Cannabinoids May Help Treat Certain Skin Diseases, New Research Finds (May 5, 2017)

CBDA Fights Breast Cancer, Study Finds (August 26, 2016)

Studies/References:

  1. Abrams, D.I. (2016). Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care. Current Oncology, 23(Suppl 2), S8–S14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791148/.
  2. Abrams, D.I., and Guzman, M. (2015, June). Cannabis in cancer care. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 97(6), 575-86. Retrieved from http://escholarship.org/uc/item/6367m6vj.
  3. Aviello, G., Romano, B., Borrelli, F., Capasso, R., Gallo, L., Piscitelli, F., Di Marzo, V., and Izzo, A.A. (2012, August). Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer. Journal of Molecular Medicine, 90(8), 925-34. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00109-011-0856-x.
  4. 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 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3730175/.
  5. Benz, A. H., Renné, C., Maronde, E., Koch, M., Grabiec, U., Kallendrusch, S., Rengstl, B., Newrzela, S., Hartmann, S., Hansmann, M.L., and Dehghani, F. (2013). Expression and Functional Relevance of Cannabinoid Receptor 1 in Hodgkin Lymphoma. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e81675. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857220/?report=reader.
  6. Bifulco, M., Laezza, C., Pisanti, S., and Gazzerro, P. (2006). Cannabinoids and cancer: pros and cons of an antitumour strategy. British Journal of Pharmacology, 148(2), 123–135. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617062/?report=reader.
  7. Bifulco, M., Laezza, C., Gazzerro, P., and Pentimalli, F. (2007, April). Endocannabinoids as emerging suppressors of angiogenesis and tumor invasion (Review). Oncology Reports, 17(4), 813-6. Retrieved from https://www.spandidos-publications.com/or/17/4/813/download.
  8. Bifulco, M., Malfitani, A.M. Pisanti, S., and Laezza, C. (2008, June). Endocannabinoids in endocrine and related tumours. Endocrine-related Cancer, 15(2), 391-408. Retrieved from http://erc.endocrinology-journals.org/content/15/2/391.long.
  9. Blázquez, C., Casanova, M.L., Planas, A., Gómez Del Pulgar, T., Villanueva, C., Fernández-Aceñero, M.J., Aragonés, J., Huffman, J.W., Jorcano, J.L., Guzmán, M. (2003, March). Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis by cannabinoids. FASEB Journal, 17(3), 529-31. Retrieved from http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2003/03/02/fj.02-0795fje.long.
  10. Blazquez, C., Gonzalez-Feria, L., Alvarez, L., Haro, A., Casanova, M.L., and Guzman, M. (2004, August 15). Cannabinoids inhibit the vascular endothelial growth factor pathway in gliomas. Cancer Research, 64(16), 5617-23. Retrieved from http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/64/16/5617.long.
  11. Blázquez, C., Carracedo, A., Barrado, L., Real, P.J., Fernández-Lun, J.L., Velasco, G., Malumbres, M., and Guzmán, M. (2006, December) Cannabinoid receptors as novel targets for the treatment of melanoma. FASEB Journal, 20(14), 2633-5. Retrieved from http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/14/2633.long.
  12. 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. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/annonc/article/22/9/2086/211788/Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-may-palliate-altered.
  13. Brown, I., Cascio, M.G., Rotondo, D., Pertwee, R.G., Heyes, S.D., and Wahle, K.W. (2013, January). Cannabinoids and omega-3/6 endocannabinoids as cell death and anticancer modulators. Progress in Lipid Research, 52(1), 80-109. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163782712000537.
  14. Caffarel, M.M., Andradas, C., Perez-Gomez, E., Guzman, M., and Sanchez, C. (2012, November). Cannabinoids: A new hope for breast cancer therapy? Cancer Treatment Reviews, 38(7), 911-8. Retrieved from http://www.cancertreatmentreviews.com/article/S0305-7372(12)00139-9/fulltext.
  15. Caffarel, M. M., Andradas, C., Mira, E., Pérez-Gómez, E., Cerutti, C., Moreno-Bueno, G., Flores, J.M., Garcia-Real, I., Palacios, J., Manes, S., Guzman, M., and Sánchez, C. (2010). Cannabinoids reduce ErbB2-driven breast cancer progression through Akt inhibition. Molecular Cancer, 9, 196. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917429/.
  16. Calvaruso, G., Pellerito, O., Notaro, A., and Giuliano, M. (2012, August). Cannabinoid-associated cell death mechanisms in tumor models (Review). International Journal of Oncology, 41(2), 407-13. Retrieved from https://www.spandidos-publications.com/ijo/41/2/407.
  17. Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ). (2015, July 15). National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/cannabis-pdq.
  18. Carracedo, A., Gironella, M., Lorente, M., Garcia, S., Guzmán, M., Velasco, G., and Iovanna, J.L.. (2006, July 1). Cannabinoids induce apoptosis of pancreatic tumor cells via endoplasmic reticulum stress-related genes. Cancer Research, 66(13), 6748-55. Retrieved from http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/13/6748.long.
  19. Carracedo, A., Lorente, M., Egia, A., Blázquez, C., García, S., Giroux, V., Malicet, C., Villuendas, R., Gironella, M., González-Feria, L., Piris, M.A., Iovanna, J.L., Guzmán, M., Velasco, G. (2006, April). The stress-regulated protein p8 mediates cannabinoid-induced apoptosis of tumor cells. Cancer Cell, 9(4), 301-12. Retrieved from http://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/fulltext/S1535-6108(06)00085-7.
  20. Casanova, M.L., Blázquez, C., Martínez-Palacio, J., Villanueva, C., Fernández-Aceñero, M.J., Huffman, J.W., Jorcano, J.L., and Guzmán, M. (2003). Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 111(1), 43–50. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC151833/.
  21. Chakravarti, B., Ravi, J., and Ganju, R.K. (2014, August 15). Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cancer: current status and future implications. Oncotarget, 5(15), 5852-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171598/.
  22. Cudaback, E., Marrs, W., Moeller, T., and Stella, N. (2010). The Expression Level of CB1 and CB2 Receptors Determines Their Efficacy at Inducing Apoptosis in Astrocytomas. PLoS ONE, 5(1), e8702. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2806825/.
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  24. De Petrocellis, L., Melck, D., Bisogno, T., and Di Marzo, V. (2000, November). Endocannabinoids and fatty acid amides in cancer inflammation and related disorders. Chemistry and Physics of Lipids, 108(1-2), 191-209. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009308400001961.
  25. De Petrocellis, L., Ligresti, A., Schiano Moriello, A., Iappelli, M., Verde, R., Stott, C.G., Cristino, L., Orlando, P., and Di Marzo, V. (2013). Non-THC cannabinoids inhibit prostate carcinoma growth in vitro and in vivo: pro-apoptotic effects and underlying mechanisms. British Journal of Pharmacology, 168(1), 79–102. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3570006/.
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