Can CBD Assist With Most cancers Therapy?
In The Emperor of All Maladies, author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee states that few diseases, like cancer, frighten modern humans. Billions of dollars spent on productive research initiatives have only increased cancer rates without significantly improving the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Enter cannabis. Numerous preclinical research suggests that certain cannabinoids like CBD may have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.
But how does this research transfer from the test tube to the human body, an infinitely more complex, dynamic environment?
An October 2020 report by a research team in Bulgaria summarized the anti-cancer effects of CBD and produced a preliminary map of how CBD can improve or support conventional cancer treatments.
Their study looks at the effects of CBD on various cancer cells and explains how CBD, when combined with conventional cancer drugs, can promote a special type of synergy that improves results.
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How does CBD work against cancer?
Endocannabinoids, or the body-produced cannabinoids, and the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant both play roles in regulating pathways that affect cancer, including the way cancer cells grow, migrate, and spread.
The clinical use of THC is often controversial because of its intoxicating psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating and a well-tolerated compound with a good safety profile. CBD has been shown to reduce tumor growth and progression in cancers as diverse as breast, lung and colon cancers.
“A plethora of evidence from animal and cellular experiments shows the numerous direct effects of cannabinoids on cancer, including CBD,” said Dr. Dustin Sulak, an integrative physician, cannabis medicine expert, and founder of Healer.com. “In particular, CBD rarely causes adverse effects, can provide significant relief on its own, and is particularly useful as a supplement to THC,” he said.
Researchers have now begun to dig deeper into how CBD could work synergistically with popular chemotherapy drugs and how this potent cannabinoid can be transferred from the laboratory to the treatment room.
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The effects of CBD on different types of cancer
In the above 2020 overview study from Bulgaria, the research team examined the evidence supporting the use of CBD in the treatment of various types of cancer. Here are their results on the three most common forms of the disease:
CBD has an inhibitory effect on breast tumor cells, especially the MCF-7 cell line, which is widely used in cancer drug research. The researchers found that when compared to other cannabinoids, CBD had a stronger effect on stopping the spread of breast cancer cells.
Research conducted in 2012 found that CBD exerts a mechanism that prevents lung cancer tumors from spreading. The same research team also reported that CBD promotes cancer cell death in primary lung tumor cells.
Test tube studies on various prostate cell lines have shown that CBD reduces androgen receptor expression, which has a profound effect on the development and progression of prostate cancer. Inhibiting the activity of these receptors can delay the progression of prostate cancer.
CBD to inhibit tumor growth and spread
One of the most problematic properties of cancer is the spread of cancerous tumors throughout the body. In contrast to normal healthy cells, cancer cells express a number of mutations that prevent cell death. These mutated cells can then spread and colonize several other places in the body.
Cancer research often focuses on the primary location where cancer originated rather than the secondary locations where it spread. Interestingly, research on cannabinoids like CBD often focuses on their ability to inhibit the progression of cancer cells that have already migrated and are forming new tumors.
According to the Bulgarian research report, CBD acts in a number of ways in the body to promote tumor suppression. One of the key ways that CBD can slow tumor progression is by modulating the PI3K signaling pathway, a major pathway that modulates cell growth, metabolism, survival, and spread, and is therefore a target for cancer treatment.
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How CBD can be combined with cancer therapies
According to the Bulgarian review, a number of reports advocate combined therapeutic approaches. The combination of CBD with specific cancer drugs has already shown that certain cancer cells are more susceptible to the effects of cancer drugs.
In patients with pancreatic cancer, other landmark research has shown that CBD, when combined with chemotherapy, can deliver promising results, a cancer notorious for being resistant to treatment. Mice with pancreatic cancer lived almost three times longer when a traditional cancer treatment, gemcitabine, was combined with CBD. In addition to extending lifespan, CBD could also improve quality of life.
Another study showed that CBD and conventional treatment temozolomide can be combined to treat gliomas – brain tumors and tumors of the spinal cord – more effectively.
CBD for side effects of cancer therapy
There is also plenty of research to support CBD as an adjunct drug that prevents and reduces the side effects of cancer therapies. One of the most uncomfortable effects of hard hitting cancer drugs is peripheral neuropathy, which causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet. Up to 75% of patients can experience this due to certain chemotherapy regimens.
CBD can help prevent this sensitivity from developing. According to a 2014 study in mice, doses of CBD given before paclitaxel, a form of chemotherapy, prevented the development of nerve sensitivity in mice. It is important that the mice’s nervous system remained intact and that the chemotherapy treatment was not affected.
Another research has shown that CBD can support the kidneys and reduce the kidney toxicity induced by cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug associated with kidney damage.
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Does the future of cancer treatment include CBD?
As in many emerging areas of cannabis science, data on research into CBD and cancer treatments are currently limited. However, the 2020 Bulgarian Review sets out a number of pieces of evidence pointing to the multiple ways CBD can support cancer treatments – and the need for more extensive clinical research to test its effectiveness.
“This review briefly summarizes the data on the ability of CBD to inhibit a wide variety of cancers and to work synergistically with conventional cancer treatments,” said Dr. Sulak. “While there is still a lot to learn about how to maximize these potential benefits in our human patients, the impressive safety, tolerability and symptomatic benefits of CBD make a strong case for its use in cancer patients.”
Emma Stone is a New Zealand-based journalist specializing in cannabis, health and wellbeing. She has a Ph.D. in sociology and has worked as a researcher and lecturer, but above all loves being a writer. She enjoyed spending her days writing, reading, outdoor hiking, eating, and swimming.
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