CBD for Cancer

What is Cancer

Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases in which the body’s cells begin to divide abnormally and without stopping. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells, when and where they are needed. When cells grow old or become damaged, they and these new cells take their place. When this orderly process breaks down, cells become more and more abnormal, old or damaged cells survive when they should die, and new cells form when they are not needed.

These extra cells can divide without stopping and can start almost anywhere in the human body. When this happens solid, malignant growths called cancerous tumors form, which can spread into, and invade nearby tissues and organs. In addition, as these tumors grow, some cancer cells can break off and travel to distant places in the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumors far from the original tumor. However, there are other types of cancers, like cancers of the blood, that rarely form solid tumors.

Cancer may occur anywhere in the body. In women, breast cancer is one of the most common. In men, it is prostate cancer. Lung cancer and colorectal cancer affect both men and women in high numbers.

Symptoms of Cancer

Cancer symptoms vary and largely depend on the part of the body that is affected. However, there are some general signs associated with most cancers, and include:

Types of Cancer

There are over 100 types of cancer and is usually named for the organs or tissues in which they form. For instance, lung cancer starts in cells of the lung, and brain cancer starts in cells of the brain. Cancers also may be described by the type of cell that formed them, such as an epithelial cell or a squamous cell.

There are five main categories of cancer:

Cancer Medications & Treatments

There are several types of cancer treatment with the type depending on the type of cancer being treated and how advanced it is. Some patients may only receive one treatment types. However, most people will receive a combination of treatments such as surgery with chemotherapy and / or radiation.

Pharmaceutical Interventions

The most common pharmaceutical interventions are chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

Chemotherapy works on active cells that are growing and dividing into more of the same type of cell. However, chemotherapy is not selective. And although cancer cells are active and chemotherapy can help reduce its spread, healthy cells - including cells in your blood, mouth, digestive system, and hair follicles - are also active, with many of the side effects of chemotherapy being because of damage to these healthy cells.

Common side effects of traditional chemotherapy include:

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Other non-pharmaceutical therapeutic interventions that are used to treat cancer include:

Surgery: When used to treat cancer, surgery is a procedure in which a surgeon removes cancer from your body.

Immunotherapy: A type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer

Targeted Therapy: A type of cancer treatment that targets the changes in cancer cells that help them grow, divide, and spread.

Biomarker Testing: A way to look for genes, proteins, and other substances (called biomarkers or tumor markers) that can provide information about cancer and can help with choosing a cancer treatment.

Stem Cell Transplant: Procedures that restore blood-forming stem cells in cancer patients who have had theirs destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

CBD for Cancer

Research and Scientific Evidence on taking CBD for cancer

The clinical evidence for Cannabidiol (CBD) as a viable treatment option for Cancer is promising, with much of it pointing to it being an effective palliative option, targeting symptom burden as a whole. However, it is also an effective option for cancer patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting.

Cannabidiol inhibits paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain through 5-HT1A receptors without diminishing nervous system function or chemotherapy efficacy

In a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, researchers investigated the efficacy of CBD in inhibiting chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain (CPIN) from Paclitaxel (PAC) treatment in cancer patients as well as whether CBD diminished the efficacy of PAC function.

Using mice injected with PAC solution to simulate CPIN, the researchers assessed the ability of acute CBD pretreatment to prevent PAC-induced mechanical pain sensitivity using co-administration of a 5-HT1A antagonist and CB1 / CB2 antagonists. The efficacy of CBD was measured using place conditioning and an operant-conditioned learning and memory task. In addition, the potential interaction of CBD and PAC and the latter’s efficacy on breast cancer cell viability was determined using the MTT assay.

Data indicated that PAC induced mechanical pain sensitivity was prevented by CBD dosages of 2.5 - 10 mg / kg. These effects were reversed when the 5-HT1A antagonist was co-administered but not by the CB1 / CB2 antagonists. In addition, the researchers determined that CBD + PAC combinations produce additive to synergistic inhibition of breast cancer cell viability. Behaviorally, CBD treatment was devoid of conditioned rewarding effects or cognitive impairment, making it a potentially safe and effective therapeutic option for targeting CPIN.

Cannabinoids: the lows and the highs of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting

In a 2019 literature review published in Future Oncology, investigators assessed the role that cannabinoids, specifically CBD, play in preventing several other adverse side effects of chemotherapy, including organ toxicity, pain and loss of appetite.

They found that the majority of the available literature was based on tetrahydrocannabinol, highlighting its known therapeutic benefits but also the lack of evidence surrounding the use of CBD in the current knowledge. Despite this, from the evidence that is available, they concluded that CBD has demonstrated anti-emetic properties, and having the potential to reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). In addition, CBD was found to attenuate markers of Doxorubicin-induced of organ toxicity including reduced levels of tissue injury, cardiac dysfunction, mRNA expression of mitochondrial biogenesis as well as apoptotic cell death. Similarly, CBD was also affective in preventing chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain (as per the previous study).

They concluded that, despite the need for more research on CBD for the treatment of chemotherapy induced side effects and palliative care, when taken together they predict CBD will prove to be an effective anti-emetic and analgesic agent that has the potential to improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

Cannabidiol bei Tumorerkrankungen

Similarly, in another review evaluating the efficacy of pure CBD in various animal models and initial case report results from patients, researchers published their results in the German journal Der Schmerz in 2020.

In addition to observing its synergistic effects, the literature also shows the therapeutic efficacy of CBD in the treatment of cancer, specifically as it relates to anti-proliferative properties. The literature indicated that a therapeutic effect was reported with oral CBD doses between 20 and 450 mg CBD / day in practically all cases. They also found that CBD may potentially play a role in the palliative care of cancer patients, especially as it is related to pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Anecdotal Evidence on taking CBD for cancer

Although not only looking at cancer patients, investigators in Florida conducted a 3-month cross-sectional survey to evaluate the perceived benefits, side effects, and beliefs of patients surrounding THC and CBD use in palliative care.

They published their results in 2020 in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. In relation to CBD, they found that 24% of palliative care patients reported CBD use with patients reporting improvements in pain (50% of patients), appetite (29% of patients), and insomnia (in 29% of patients). In addition, 21% of patients reported they thought CBD oil was helping cure their illness.

CBD as a Complementary Treatment for cancer

Many people suffering from cancer also report having other side effects from chemotherapy treatment, including sleep problems, feelings of anxiety and depression. In one large case series study investigating the effects of CBD on anxiety and sleep, the results show CBD helps improve sleep and/or anxiety in clinical populations. Similarly, CBD can further support cancer patients by reducing stress, anxiety, depression while also helping to promote REM sleep that is thought to help improve overall mood.

Bottom Line

Scientific and anecdotal evidence both suggest that CBD can support cancer patients, especially those in palliative care by helping to reduce chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting. If you or a loved one are suffering from cancer and want to try CBD, talk to your medical practitioner first. He or she can help put together a plan that includes CBD along with other treatment options to help you deal with your symptoms safely and effectively.