CBD for Colon Cancer

What is Colon Cancer

Each day a massive process of cell destruction and repair occurs within the body. However, despite remarkable elegant systems in place to prevent errors, the body still makes tens of thousands of mistakes daily while replacing cells - either because of random errors or because there are outside pressures placed on the replacement process that promote errors. When these errors occur within the large intestine (colon), it is called colon cancer. Colon cancer is also sometimes called colorectal cancer, which is a term that refers to a combination of colon cancer and rectal cancer, in the event of the cancer also being present in the rectum.

The colon and the rectum are the final portions of the digestive system, composed of four layers, that extend from the mouth to the anus. The first is an inner layer of cells, called the mucosa, that lines the cavity through which the undigested and digesting food travels. The mucosa is attached to a thin second layer, the submucosa, that is attached to the third layer of muscle, called the muscularis. The entire tract is surrounded by fibrous tissue called the serosa.

Colon cancer typically affects older adults, though it can happen at any age. It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the mucosa, that, over time, can become colon cancers. Because these polyps are small and produce few, if any, symptoms, doctors recommend regular screening test to identify and remove these before they can turn into cancer. These screening tests usually include one of the following procedures:

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

As mentioned, colon cancer might not cause symptoms right away. And because many of its symptoms can also be caused by other problems, such as infection, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease, a definitive diagnosis is often difficult without resorting to one of the above screening methods. The most common symptoms of colon and colorectal cancer include:

Stages of Colon Cancer

When colon cancer is diagnosed, additional tests, called staging, are performed to determine how advanced the colon cancer has become, and ranges from stage I, the least advanced cancer, to stage IV, the most advanced cancer.

Stage I colorectal cancers involve only the innermost layers of the colon or rectum. The likelihood of cure (excellent prognosis) for stage I colorectal cancer is over 90%.

Stage II cancers exhibit greater growth and extension of the tumor through the wall of the colon or rectum into adjacent structures.

Stage III colorectal cancers manifest the spread of cancer to local lymph nodes.

Stage IV (metastatic) colorectal cancers have spread or metastasized, to distant organs or lymph nodes far from the original tumor.

With each subsequent stage of colon cancer, the risk for recurrent cancer and death due to the spread of cancer (metastasis) rises. However, depending on where cancer has spread, even in stage IV colon cancer, it can be cured.

Colon Cancer Medications & Treatments

If colon cancer develops, many treatments are available to help control it and usually consists of a combination of procedures and medications. Treatment options and recommendations and recommendations usually depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, treatment side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health.

Pharmaceutical Interventions

Systemic therapy is when medication is used to destroy cancer cells and is prescribed by a medical oncologist. It is given through the bloodstream in order to reach cancer cells throughout the body and include:

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, usually by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. A patient may receive 1 drug at a time or a combination of different drugs given at the same time with a chemotherapy regimen, usually consisting of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. Side-effects of chemotherapy include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, neuropathy, fatigues, increased risk of infection and/or mouth sores.

Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells.

Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Different types of immunotherapy can cause different side effects. The most common side effects of immunotherapy may include fatigue, rash, diarrhea, nausea, fever, muscle pain, bone pain, joint pain, abdominal pain, itching, vomiting, cough, decreased appetite, and shortness of breath.

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

The most common non-pharmaceutical colon cancer treatments are surgery and radiation therapy.

During surgery, the tumor along with some surrounding healthy tissue and lymph nodes are removed during the operation. It is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer and is called surgical resection because it involves the surgical removal of part of the colon.

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Along with surgery, radiation is commonly used for treating rectal cancer because this tumor tends to recur near where it originally started. A radiation therapy regimen, or schedule, usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time. Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, upset stomach, loose bowel movements, bloody stools from bleeding through the rectum and/or blockage of the bowel.

CBD for Colon Cancer

Research & Scientific Evidence on using CBD for colon cancer

The clinical evidence for Cannabidiol (CBD) as a viable treatment option for Colon Cancer is promising.

Chemopreventive effect of the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol on experimental colon cancer

Considering the antioxidant and intestinal anti-inflammatory as well as its inhibition of endocannabinoid enzymatic degradation, the researchers of a 2012 paper published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine, hypothesized that these mechanisms could potentially beneficial in the treatment of colon carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer cells and tumors).

Investigating cannabidiol’s (CBD) possible chemopreventive effect in the model of colon cancer induced in mice, the researchers analyzed in vivo CBD treatment and tumor evaluation in cell cultures. They found that CBD at the dose of 1 mg/kg exerted an optimal chemopreventive effect, significantly reducing polyps and tumors, by protecting DNA from oxidative damage and inhibiting FAAH, both of which are potential chemopreventive effects. Similarly, they also found that CBD reduced the spread of cancer cells via an antagonistic mechanism involving CB1, TRPV1, and PPARγ channels, all of which play a role in cancer cell proliferation.

From this the researchers concluded that CBD exerts a chemopreventive effect in vivo, and reduces cell proliferation through multiple mechanisms, making it a potentially effective treatment for colon cancer.

Inhibition of colon carcinogenesis by a standardized Cannabis sativa extract with high content of cannabidiol

A paper published in 2014 in the Journal of Phytomedicine investigated the role of a standardized CBD botanical drug substance (CBD BDS) that contain a high concentration of CBD along with other cannabinoids in the inhibition of colon carcinogenesis using colorectal carcinoma cells as well as in healthy colonic cells.

Previous studies have shown that pure CBD reduced cell proliferation in tumor cells and that pure CBD reduced cell proliferation in a CB1-sensitive antagonist manner only. Using CBD BDS, the researchers investigated the mode of action in which it effects colorectal carcinoma cells and in-vivo murine models of colon carcinogenesis.

They found that both CBD BDS and pure CBD reduced cell proliferation in tumor cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected. In addition, they found that CBD BDS showed greater affinity than pure CBD for both CB1 and CB2 receptors, with pure CBD having very little affinity. This meant that the effect of CBD BDS was produced by selective CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonists, while pure CBD reduced cell proliferation via CB1 receptors only. In vivo, CBD BDS also reduced pre-neoplastic lesions and polyps as well as tumor growth in colon cancer cell xenographs.

The results lead them to conclude that pure CBD and CBD BDS attenuates colon carcinogenesis and inhibits colorectal cancer cell proliferation via CB1, and CBD BDS also via CB2 receptor activation, showing that CBD may have some clinical relevance for the use of Cannabis-based medicines in colon cancer patients.

Can cannabidiol inhibit angiogenesis in colon cancer?

In another animal study, this one from 2019 and published in the journal Comparative Clinical Pathology, researchers investigated the effects of CBD on the angiogenesis (development) and death of cancer cells in an experimental model of colon cancer.

They did this by evaluating interleukin (IL-6 and IL-8) alterations, oxidative stress parameters, and the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as well as histopathological parameters, all of which are implicated in cancer cell angiogenesis.

The results showed CBD can stimulate apoptosis (cell death) and reduce tumor growth of colon cancer in mice, with a dose of 5 mg/kg CBD inhibiting tumor growth better than the 1-mg/kg dose. Similarly, they also found that CBD had a positive anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects that inhibits tumor growth, cell migration, and angiogenesis by significantly reducing VEGF expression.

The researchers concluded that CBD can potentially be considered as an anti-colon cancer medicine due to the inhibitory effect it exerts on angiogenesis, tumor growth, and metastasis through reducing VEGF gene expression, decreasing cytokines, and increasing antioxidant enzyme activities.

Anecdotal Evidence on using CBD for colon cancer

Some people opt to treat their colon cancer with cannabis oil, and have done so successfully. However, when it comes to CBD and colon cancer, the anecdotal evidence centres more around CBD being used as a complementary therapy (more on that below).

CBD as a Complementary Treatment

Most of the available evidence indicates that CBD may complement colon cancer treatment, and that CBD may help people with colon cancer by helping reduce pain and inflammation. In addition, many people suffering from colon and colorectal 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 colon or colorectal cancer patients, especially by helping to reduce chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, inflammation, nausea and vomiting. If you or a loved one are suffering from colon or colorectal 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.