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Up until this point, much of what we know about CBD has been anecdotal. But thanks to increases in funding, more institutions conducting research and the success of studies like Epilepsy/ Epidiolex, we have started to see the ‘science’ catch up with the ‘theory’.
Today there is more research being conducted than ever before, including, the subject of this week’s blog, Cancer.
So, what has the research found? Can CBD be a positive agent in treating cancer?
It’s early days
Right now, as with many things, CBD-related in the clinical field, the body of research just isn’t big enough yet, so it’s too early to tell with complete certainty. There is no evidence that CBD can cure cancer, and among the studies that have been done looking into CBD’s general effect on patients with the disease, the findings are mixed and not fully standardized.
However, there is plenty of reason to pay attention! Putting aside the notion of a cure, CBD has been found to actively help alleviate symptoms of cancer and its treatment, which could be its most immediate use relating to the disease.
We have written in earlier posts about CBD’s benefits in treating pain and conditions like anxiety, depression and sleep disorders—all of which can play a major role in the lives of patients dealing with cancer. But furthermore, cancer patients, and particularly those undergoing chemotherapy treatments, often experience side effects like nausea, vomiting and weight loss. Thankfully, recent studies have found CBD to be highly effective in managing those symptoms as well.
Sidelining cancer’s side effects
Currently, there are two synthetic cannabis-based drugs approved by the FDA for their use in reducing nausea, vomiting and weight loss brought on by chemotherapy for cancer patients: dronabinol, or Marinol, and nabilone, or Cesamet. Neither drug has been proven to be more effective than traditional anti-nausea medication, but for those looking for an alternative to traditional medicine, dronabinol or nabilone may be just the thing. These drugs’ effectiveness combined with recent findings on the promise of CBD alone as an anti-nausea treatment option, as opposed to full cannabis, points to the possibility of FDA-approved CBD alternatives in the future.
Additionally, Canada and some European countries have approved a cannabinoid-derived oral spray with both THC and CBD that is shown to help address pain associated with cancer. The drug has yet to be approved in the United States.
Potential direct CBD impacts on cancer
Studies of CBD’s direct effects as a treatment option are fewer, yet the research that has been conducted indicates its potential in this arena as well. In January of this year, a study on pancreatic cancer in vitro and in vivo found CBD to help inhibit tumor growth and further invasion, as well as help, cause tumor cell death. That study’s findings were corroborated by another study in February that invoked CBD’s efficacy in palliative care while highlighting its negating effects on tumorigenesis.
As it turns out, the same tumor-limiting results have proven true when looking at specific types of cancer. A 2019 in vitro study found that CBD helped induce cell death in a case of glioblastoma—a.k.a. a very aggressive malignant tumor beginning in the brain or spine. The study also noted that CBD seemed to increase the glioblastoma’s sensitivity to radiation treatment by inhibiting the ATM protein kinase, without causing damage to normal cells.
This study adds to a group of previous studies CBD and cancerous tumors: a 2014 in vivo study found CBD to be helpful in impeding tumor growth in cases of colon cancer; a 2014 review of clinical trials showed similar inhibition of tumoral cells of gliomas (tumors on the brain and spine, less aggressive than glioblastomas); and a study from 2010 indicated the capacity for CBD to reduce cell proliferation in metastatic breast cancer.
Things to keep in mind with CBD treatment
Despite the possibilities indicated by these studies, when looking to CBD to help treat any pre-diagnosed medical conditions or symptoms of their treatments’ side effects, as we have reiterated in many posts, you should always consult your doctor first. Cancer, especially, is no exception.
Too much is still TBD regarding how CBD reacts with other medications, and exact treatment plans and doses will consistently be ascertained on a case-by-case basis, but early findings do show CBD to have an effect on how the body metabolizes certain drugs. It has specifically been found to inhibit the metabolizing of enzymes CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. Because cancer patients already have compromised immune systems, and particularly those in chemotherapy treatment, any potential CBD might have to affect how drugs work in the body and change the body’s immunosensitivity is cause for concern and should be taken very seriously. Again, consult with your doctor and, in these cases, consider CBD to be another medication as opposed to a supplement that you can merely add on to your regimen without a more informed analysis of its reactions with other drugs.
It’s also crucial to make sure you’re buying your CBD products from highly reputable companies. This is important for anyone, but especially when looking to treat symptoms or side effects of something as serious as cancer, you just can’t risk the potential contamination or mislabeling and misrepresentation that less established brands come with.
Thankfully, all of the brands on our site are highly respected in the industry and undertake the utmost concern with their growing, extraction and production processes. You can look to a few of our earlier posts to learn tips on how to buy the best CBD products, how to spot fake ones, and why higher quality is worth the cost.
While there is still much to learn, CBD currently looks to be quite helpful for several patients in alleviating the side effects of cancer treatment, and it may well be the thing to help you or your loved one manage pain in the process. Take extra caution when adding CBD drugs to a medication routine and be sure to consult your healthcare professionals.