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The use of medical marijuana in cancer care presents a dilemma for both patients and physicians. The scientific evidence is evolving, yet much of the known information is still insufficient to adequately inform patients as to risks and benefits. In addition, evidence-based dosing and administration information on medical marijuana is lacking. Medical marijuana is now legal, on some level, in 24 states plus the District of Columbia, yet is not legal on the federal level. This review addresses the current state of the research, including potential indications, risks and adverse effects, preliminary data on anticancer effects, as well as legal and quality issues. A summary of the clinical trials underway on medical marijuana in the oncology setting is discussed.
The Use of Medical Marijuana in Cancer
Shauna M. Birdsall
&Timothy C. Birdsall
&Lucas A. Tims
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract The use of medical marijuana in cancer care pre-
sents a dilemma for both patients and physicians. The scien-
tific evidence is evolving, yet much of the known information
is still insufficient to adequately inform patients as to risks and
benefits. In addition, evidence-based dosing and administra-
tion information on medical marijuana is lacking. Medical
marijuana is now legal, on some level, in 24 states plus the
District of Columbia, yet is not legal on the federal level. This
review addresses the current state of the research, including
potential indications, risks and adverse effects, preliminary
data on anticancer effects, as well as legal and quality issues.
A summary of the clinical trials underway on medical mari-
juana in the oncology setting is discussed.
Keywords Marijuana .Cannabis .Cancer .
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol .Delta-9-THC .
Tetrahydrocannabinol .THC .Cannabinoid .Cannabidiol .
CBD .Endocannabinoid .Oncology .Dronabinol .
Nabilone .Nabiximols
Twenty years ago,California became the first state to make the
use of cannabis products legal for medical use. On November
5, 1996, Californians approved the Ballot Proposition 215,
which removed the states criminal penalties relating to the
medical use, possession, or cultivation of Cannabis sativa,
(commonly known as Bmarijuana^), for patients when
Bdeemed appropriate,^provided they have Bwritten or oral
recommendation or approval of a physician^[1]. The general
public has now voted in favor of the comprehensive use of
medical marijuana in 24 states plus the District of Columbia,
as well as an additional 16 states which have enacted laws
allowing the use of Bhemp oil,^which is low in tetrahydro-
cannabinol (THC), but high in cannabidiol (CBD). This is a
strong message to the medical community advocating for use,
yet marijuana itself has not undergone the usual rigorous test-
ing that would ensure safety and efficacy. In addition, medical
marijuana lacks quality assurance and does not fall under the
guidelines of FDA regulation.
In cancer care, medical marijuana presents a clinical conun-
drum for the individual physician and the oncology commu-
nity at large. Many patients and caregivers inquire as to the
potential benefit of medical marijuana at some point during
the course of their cancer care. Oncology professionals are
asked to describe the relative risks and potential benefits of a
substance that has been used historically for medical use, as
well as recreationally for years, but lacks the level of evidence
for medical use that would make such a discussion as routine
as providing education on other supportive care options.
Patients are using medical marijuana and health care profes-
sionals are documenting that use, with questions still arising
on how to address potential for adverse effects, drug interac-
tions, dosing, routes of administration, and how to best navi-
gate clinical decision-making.
Summary of Known Pharmacology
Cannabinoids are the active constituents of C. sativa and
Cannabis indica species, mimic the effects of endogenous
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Integrative Care
*Shauna M. Birdsall
Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical
Center, 14200 W. Celebrate Life Way, Goodyear, AZ 85338, USA
Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40
DOI 10.1007/s11912-016-0530-0
cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), activating CB1 (cannabi-
noid 1) receptors which exist primarily in the central
nervous system and CB2 receptors found predominantly
in immune cells [2••]. The cannabinoid receptors are part
of the endocannabinoid system which function predomi-
nantly in modulating mood, memory, appetite, and pain
sensation. There are thought to be approximately 100
cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, as well as about
400 non-cannabinoid compounds that originate from the
secondary metabolism of cannabis, which are responsible
for its biological activity [2••]. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannab-
inol, often simply referred to as THC, is the primary
active ingredient in cannabis and its main psychoactive
component. THC can induce feelings of euphoria, as
well as have analgesic, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory,
and antioxidant effects [3••]. CBD is one of the major
secondary cannabinoids and may modulate THC. CBD
has anxiolytic, antipsychotic, as well as anticonvulsive
effects [3••].
Potential Indications
Several comprehensive review articles have been written in
2015 on cannabis and cancer. Abrams and Guzman co-
authored an article in 2015 that reviews the history of cannabis
as medicine as well as cannabinoid pharmacology and dis-
cusses the research that has been done on cannabinoids in
cancer symptom management [2••]. In addition to the above,
Kramers review article provides summary tables comparing
the research to date on effect of smoked marijuana on
chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, pain, and appetite/
weight loss [3••]. Lastly, Whiting et al. performed a systemic
review and meta-analysis of cannabinoids for medical use that
included a total of 79 trials and 6462 participants. For symp-
tom management, they found that cannabinoids had
moderate-level quality evidence for the treatment of chronic
pain. For chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, there
was low-quality evidence. Weight gain was evaluated for HIV
infection, as there has not been research evaluating cannabi-
noids for weight gain in oncology patients, and low-quality
evidence was found. Sleep disorders were also evaluated in a
non-oncology population with low quality of evidence dem-
onstrated [4••].
As mentioned in Table 1below, several types of cannabis-
derived pharmaceuticals are available in the USA and
Canada. Dronabinol, which is a schedule III controlled sub-
stance, and nabilone, which is a schedule II drug, are ap-
proved in the USA, and nabiximols (not US Food and Drug
Administration approved) is available in Canada. Table 1
summarizes the potential indications of cannabis in cancer
care and includes the information on dose ranges that have
been studied.
Risks and Adverse Effects
The short-term adverse effects for smoked cannabis are well
described in a recent review by Zhang and Ho (2015) and
include the following which may occur approximately
30 min after consumption and usually lasting for 24h:anx-
iety or agitation, illusions, feelings of depersonalization, hal-
lucinations, paranoid ideation, temporal slowing as well as
impaired judgment/attention as well as red eyes, dryness of
the mouth, tachycardia, and increased appetite. Of note, can-
nabis may impact cognition for as much as 512hafter
smoking. In addition, for consumption in high doses, acute
confusion, hypotension, hypothermia, and even psychosis
may occur [5]. Oral consumption of cannabis may not cause
significant symptoms as the bioavailability is significantly re-
duced [5]. There is a lack of data overall for oral or mucosal
cannabis risks and adverse effects, beyond what is described
in the prescribing information for the approved drugs
dronabinol and nabilone. The most common side effect for
oral administration appears to be fatigue and dizziness [6].
Other adverse effects associated with cannabis include
risk of anxiety, depressive disorder, exacerbation of manic
syndromes in those with bipolar disorder, increased risk
of schizophrenia and psychosis, and cannabis hyperemesis
syndrome (a paradoxical effect associated with long-term
use) [5]. Additional risks are from potential vascular ef-
fects, including cannabis-induced arteritis, posterior circu-
lation stroke, and myocardial infarction [5]. Heavy
smoking of marijuana is associated with large airway in-
flammation and may cause symptoms related to chronic
bronchitis; however, occasional use of marijuana does not
appear to be a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmo-
nary disease [7]. Potential metabolic effects include adi-
pose tissue insulin resistance, and there is one case report
of pancreatitis [5].
Of note, there is an additional risk for inhaled cannabis.
A variety of microorganisms can be present on cannabis
leaves and flowers which when inhaled could expose po-
tentially immunocompromised oncology patients to the
risk of opportunistic pulmonary infections, primarily from
inhaled molds [8].
Metabolism of Cannabis and Potential Drug Interactions
Minimal data is available for cannabis and potential drug in-
teractions. Smoked cannabis may induce CYP1A2 (cyto-
chrome P-450 1A2), although the ability of cannabinoids ad-
ministered via oral or mucosal routes to specifically provoke
this effect is uncertain [9]. There is a lack of human data for
THC or CBD inhibition and induction of CYP-450 isoen-
zymes, but preclinical studies indicate a low risk of clinically
significant drug interactions [9].
40 Page 2 of 9 Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40
Summary of Potential Cancer Risk
Smoked cannabis does contain many of the same carcinogens
as tobacco; however, marijuana is typically smoked less fre-
quently than tobacco and in smaller quantities. In addition,
marijuana is consumed via oral and mucosal routes of admin-
istration, which complicates analysis of potential long-term
cancer risk as the studies to date have been with smoked
cannabis. The most recent studies are summarized below.
In 2013, Callaghan found initial longitudinal evi-
dence that cannabis use might elevate the risk of lung cancer
in a 40-year population-based cohort study using Cox regres-
sion analysis with an n= 44,284. Even after a statistical ad-
justment for tobacco and alcohol use as well as socioeconomic
status and respiratory conditions, a lifetime use of cannabis
smoked more than 50 times was found to have more than a
twofold risk of developing lung cancer over the 40-year fol-
low-up period (hazard ratio 2.12, 95 % CI 1.084.14) [9].
However, the other six studies on risk of lung cancer from
cannabis appear to not support an association. This may be
due to the relatively smaller amount of marijuana smoked as
compared to tobacco, as mentioned above [10].
Cannabis smoking and the incidence of bladder cancer
were evaluated by the California Mens Health study cohort
in a study published in 2015, which followed a multiethnic
cohort of 84,170 men aged 4569 years for 11 years. Thomas found that 89 of the cannabis users (which was 0.03 % of
the participants) developed bladder cancer as compared to 190
participants who did not report cannabis use (P<001).
Interestingly, after adjusting for age, race, or ethnicity, as well
as body mass index, those that used cannabis only were asso-
ciated with a 45 % reduction in bladder cancer incidence (HR,
0.5; 95 % CI, 0.311.00). However, using tobacco only was
associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer (HR 1.52;
95 % CI, 1.122.07) [11].
In head and neck cancer, research on marijuana and cancer
risk has been conflicting, with reports on both increased and
decreased risk. There are three case-controlled studies show-
ing increased risk for testicular cancer with marijuana use
[summary ORs, 1.56; 95 % (CI), 1.092.23 for higher fre-
quency and 1.50 (95 % CI, 1.082.09) for >/=10 years] [12].
There is inadequate data to draw any conclusions for cancers
occurring at other sites.
Potential Anticancer Effects
Recent preclinical studies have demonstrated a number of
interesting therapeutic applications of cannabis as a potential
anticancer agent. Chakravarti et al. elaborate on the antiprolif-
erative and anti-angiogenic activity that has been identified
in vitro as well as in vivo in different models of cancer [13].
Cannabinoids have been shown to play a role in regulating
key cell signaling pathways that are involved in cell survival,
Tab l e 1 Potential indications of cannabis in cancer care [4••]
Potential indication evaluated Level of evidence Intervention Dose evaluated in studies Approved drug availability in the USA Dose evaluated of approved drug
Nausea/vomiting due
to chemotherapy
Low THC 560 mg/day
(either 1×/day or every 46h)
Dronabinol (synthetic THC) 530 mg/day (14 doses per day,
most common, 2 doses)
Nabilone (synthetic cannabinoid
derivative mimicking THC)
0.58 mg (most common
dose 2 mg bid)
Chronic pain and spasticity Moderate Cannabis Vaporized 1.29 or 3.53 % concentration:
4 puffs after 1 h then 48puffsafter3h
Nonealthough nabiximols is
licensed for use in other countries
THC Capsulessame dose as above
15 cigarettes smoked
(potency when reported ranged
from 2.5 to 9.4 %
Appetite/weight loss
(only studied in HIV/AIDS)
Low Dronabinol 2.510 mg bid
Sleep Low Nabilone (nabixomols
outside of the USA)
0.58 mg (most common
dose 2 mg bid)
Anxiety disorder Very low CBD (active cannabinoid) 200800 mg/day capsules None None
Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40 Page 3 of 9 40
invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis [13]. In the last year,
several interesting studies have provided more specific clues
as to the potential mechanisms. For example, Orellana-
Serradell et al. detected the presence of cannabinoid receptors
on prostatic cancer cells and then evaluated the effect of the
in vitro use of synthetic cannabis analogues [14]. They found
a dose-dependent inhibitory effect, including increasing levels
of activated caspase-3 and a reduction in the levels of Bcl-2
confirming activation of apoptosis. In addition, they observed
an endocannabinoid-modulated activation of the ERK path-
way and a simultaneous decrease in the activation of the AKT
pathway [14], suggesting that endocannabinoids may have
activity in the treatment of refractory prostate cancer. A recent
review by McAllister et al. revealed that CBD has been shown
in animal models to inhibit progression of glioblastoma,
breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer [15]. The conclusions
of these studies are very preliminary, but indicate a further area
of research which may uncover further uses of cannabinoids
and/or their synthetic analogues in cancer care as having ad-
ditional therapeutic benefit.
Legal Issues Surrounding Medical Marijuana
The legal concerns regarding medical marijuana are complex,
and the rapidly changing legal and legislative environment
around this issue creates the risk that information presented
here may be quickly outdated. However, we will attempt to
point out key issues physicians need to understand more fully
in order to appropriately advise their patients. The primary
legal issue is that marijuana (C. sativa), THC, and CBD de-
rived from C. sativa are all classified as schedule I controlled
substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act
(CSA) of 1970 and, as such, may not be prescribed for any
purpose outside of an appropriately registered clinical trial
[1618]. To be classified under schedule I, a drug or substance
must meet the following criteria:
1. The drug or other substances have a high potential for
2. The drug or other substances have no currently accepted
medical use in treatment in the USA.
3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or
other substances under medical supervision.
Other examples of schedule I substances include the fol-
lowing: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-
methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), and mescaline
Much confusion exists as to the differences between mar-
ijuana and hemp, which is primarily grown for its fiber, used
in textiles, paper, and rope manufacturing. Hemp differs from
marijuana in that it is cultivated primarily for its fiber, seed,
and oil and therefore employs varieties and cultivars of
Cannabis sp. most suited to those end uses, and which also
have lower THC, and in some cases CBD. All three Cannabis
spp., C. sativa L., C. indica,andCannabis ruderalis can be
grown for hemp, although due to its shorter height,
C. ruderalis is less suitable for fiber purposes. However, some
strains of C. ruderalis are reportedly high in CBD content,
while being low in THC content [19]. The American Herbal
Products Association employs the following definitions [20]:
Cannabis Means any of the aerial parts [exposed to air] of a
plant in the genus Cannabis and does not mean
Hemp Means any part of a plant in the genus Cannabis,
whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahy-
drocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more
than 0.3 (three-tenths) percent on a dry weight
The CSA definition for Bmarihuana^[sic] as a schedule I
substance specifically includes Ball parts of the plant Cannabis
sativa L., whether growing or not^[21]. Since THC is also
listed separately in schedule I, a product containing THC de-
rived from any Cannabis sp. would be considered a schedule I
substance. However, CBD is not listed individually as a
schedule I substance, and therefore, many producers of Bhigh
CBD/low THC^oils describe their products as Bhemp oil^
derived from C. ruderalis.
Federal law regulates the importation, manufacture, distri-
bution, possession, and improper use of all controlled sub-
stances, as well as the transportation of controlled substances
across state lines [22]. However, beginning in 1996, a total of
24 states plus the District of Columbia have passed compre-
hensive medical marijuana laws, and an additional 16 states
have enacted Blow THC, high CBD^laws [2325][see
Table 2]. In nearly all of these states, a physician must certify
that the patient has a debilitating condition which qualifies
under state laws for the use of medical marijuana. These laws
typically require a physician to have a bona fide physician-
patient relationship with the patient prio rto c ertifying them for
medical marijuana use. This is most often described as ongo-
ing responsibility for the assessment, care, and treatment of
the patients debilitating medical condition or a symptom of
their debilitating medical condition, and being reasonably
available to provide follow-up care. Physicians should be
aware that this is a rapidly changing area of the law and would
be well advised to seek legal counsel regarding the current
status of medical marijuana laws in their state and local
On October 19, 2009, then, US Attorney General Eric
Holder announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors
in states which have adopted medical marijuana laws. These
enforcement guidelines, while not changing existing federal
law regarding marijuana, did effectively alter priorities for the
use of federal investigative and prosecutorial resources.
40 Page 4 of 9 Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40
Federal prosecutors were instructed to Bnot focus federal re-
sources in your States on individuals whose actions are in
clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws
providing for the medical use of marijuana^[26].
The US Department of Justice updated its official marijua-
na enforcement policy on August 29, 2013 in response to the
Colorado and Washington State ballot initiatives which legal-
ized production, processing, sales, and possession of small
amounts of marijuana for non-medical use [27]. In general,
the 2009 and 2013 changes to enforcement policy have result-
ed in removing the persistent risk previously existing for can-
cer patients using medical marijuana that, even though legal in
Tabl e 2 State medical marijuana laws [2325]
State Year Physician responsibility Unrestricted oncology use Recognizes patients
from other states
Comprehensive quality
Comprehensive laws
Alaska 1998 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No No
Arizona 2010 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes Partial
California 1996 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Colorado 2000 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Connecticut 2012 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Delaware 2011 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes Yes
District of Columbia 2010 Certify Dx and recommend Yes No Partial
Hawaii 2000 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Illinois 2013 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Louisiana 2015 Prescribe No
No No
Maine 1998 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes Yes
Maryland 2003 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes Yes
Massachusetts 2012 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
Michigan 2008 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes No
Minnesota 2014 Certify Dx No
No Yes
Montana 2004 Certify Dx and recommend Yes No No
Nevada 2000 Certify Dx Yes Yes Yes
New Hampshire 2013 Certify Dx No
Yes Ye s
New Jersy 2010 Certify Dx and authorize amount No
No Yes
New Mexico 2007 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No Yes
New York 2014 Certify Dx, authorize brand, amount No
No Yes
Oregon 1998 Certify Dx and benefit Yes Yes Yes
Rhode Island 2006 Certify Dx and benefit Yes No No
Vermont 2004 Certify Dx Yes No Partial
Washington 1998 Certify Dx and benefit No
No Yes
CBD only laws
Alabama 2014 May prescribe
No No
Florida 2014 Certify Dx and order Yes No Yes
Georgia 2015 Certify Dx and authorize No
No No
Iowa 2014 Certify Dx and recommend No
No No
KY, MS 2014 Written order
No No
MO, UT, WI, WY 2014 Certify Dx and benefit No
No No
NC, OK, SC, TN 2014 Research only No
No No
Texas 2015 Certify Dx and benefit No
No Partial
Virginia 2015 Written certification No
No No
Physicians should be aware that this is a rapidly changing area of the law, and would be well advised to seek legal counsel regarding the current status of
medical marijuana laws in their state and local jurisdiction.
Further specific state restrictions exist
Intractible epilepsy or seizures only
Varies, but typically limited to intractible nausea/vomiting or pain or terminal illness or inability to function
Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40 Page 5 of 9 40
their home state, marijuana possession violated federal law,
rendering them susceptible to arrest and prosecution under
federal statutes.
Nevertheless, there remain aspects of the federal law which
are particularly problematic. First is the issue that because
marijuana and its derivatives, potentially including CBD, are
listed as schedule I substances, they cannot legally be pre-
scribed by physicians. Most states have circumvented this
issue with a two-step process, enacting specific lists of diag-
noses which can qualify a patient for medical marijuana usage
and creating registries of patients whose physician has certi-
fied that the patient has been diagnosed with a qualifying
condition, and that the potential benefits of marijuana out-
weigh the risks of use. This approach effectively avoids the
Bprescription^problem. However, the current laws in some
states, such as Alabama and Louisiana, only authorize physi-
cians to prescribe medical marijuana, creating a conflict with
federal law and a potential legal risk for physicians.
Second, several states have enacted laws which do not
allow for the manufacture, distribution, or sale of medical
marijuana within the state. As a result, patients who have a
physician certification of a qualifying condition and who are
appropriately registered with the state can only obtain mari-
juana via illegal purchase Bon the street,^or by crossing state
lines and purchasing marijuana in a state where it is legal, as
long as that state recognizes out-of-state registration cards.
However, in that case, transportation of marijuana across state
lines back to their home state represents a violation of federal
law, due to the inter-state transportation of a schedule I
Medical Marijuana Quality Issues
Products used to treat serious medical conditions such as can-
cer need to provide at least a basic level of consistency from
batch to batch, clear labeling regarding ingredients and poten-
cy, and a significant degree of freedom from contaminants.
Since medical marijuana is a plant-based product, it may also
be susceptible to significant variability due to varying species
and strains, differences in growing conditions and harvesting,
and inconsistency in producing the final dosage form. While
guidelines and standards are firmly in place for pharmaceuti-
cals, via the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and dietary sup-
plements, via the Dietary Supplement Health and Education
Act, and their respective regulations,because of the schedule I
status of Cannabis, no similar federal regulations apply.
Therefore, the degree to which the quality of medical marijua-
na is regulated is at the discretion of each state, and there is
considerable variability, as demonstrated in Table 2.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has
produced a set of BRecommendations for Regulators
Cannabis Operations^designed to provide an outline of ap-
propriate quality requirements which could reasonably be
included in legislation or regulations [28]. These recommen-
dations cover the following: Cultivation and Processing
Operations, Manufacturing and Related Operations,
Laboratory Operations, and Dispensing Operations. We be-
lieve the most critical are those requiring laboratory testing
to verify active ingredients and potency, accurate labeling of
the final product with this information, laboratory testing for
contaminants, and appropriate guidelines on the use of pesti-
cides when growing Cannabis.
medical marijuana law, only 18 appear to have comprehensive
quality requirements, with an additional 4 having enacted par-
tial quality requirements. The other 10 states with medical
marijuana laws have either very weak or non-existent quality
Future Directions and Perspectives
The legal status of marijuana presents obstacles researchers
must navigate to perform clinical trials. In order to perform
any clinical studies on a schedule I drug, researchers must
apply for a license from the DEA. These licenses are issued
only if several strict eligibility requirements are met by the
applicant. In addition, securing funding can pose a challenge
as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which pro-
vides the majority of money for research involving schedule I
drugs, has focused mainly on studies that target the dangers of
marijuana and treating abuse. Given the legal landscape re-
searchers are confronted with in the USA, at this time, most of
the human studies evaluating the effects of cannabis are taking
place in other countries such as Canada and Israel, where the
medicinal use has already been legalized.
At the current time, there are more than 15 trials evaluating
clinical outcomes in cancer patients using cannabis or canna-
bis analogues [29]. Our search revealed two studies examining
the safety and pharmacokinetics of various cannabis products
[30]. These studies will help to bolster the safety profile of
cannabis as well as establish maximum tolerated dose and
potential herb-drug interactions. One of these studies, taking
place in Israel and currently recruiting patients, is aiming to
determine the potential effects cannabis has on cognitive im-
pairment in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy [31].
This study represents the first time these effects have been
tested in a cancer population.
Seven clinical trials are aiming to evaluate cannabiseffects
on pain in cancer patients [32]. One of these studies is taking
place in the USA at the New York State Psychiatric Institute,
which has published previous research on marijuana addic-
tion. The study is not yet recruiting but the stated outcome is
to evaluate the efficacy of smoked cannabis for pain relief in
patients undergoing radiation therapy for lung cancer [33].
This is notable as it is the first study the authors are aware of
taking place solely inside the USA with an outcome of pain
40 Page 6 of 9 Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18:40
relief in cancer patients. It is also unique from all of the other
active trials in that the intervention is smoking marijuana ver-
sus the more common oral cannabis products now available.
One of these oral products, Sativex (nabiximols), which is an
oral spray, is the intervention being used in the other three
current trials for pain relief in cancer patients. Sativex has been
patented and approved for cancer-related pain in Canada and
several European countries. GW pharmaceuticals, the compa-
ny behind Sativex, has had similar trials published recently
through an ongoing series known as SPRAY [3436].
One of the more established benefits of cannabis is stimu-
lating appetite. One study is focusing on dronabinolseffects
on appetite stimulation in addition to effects on chemosensory
abnormalities (i.e., taste and smell alterations) [37]. Until now,
all human studies investigating cannabiseffects on appetite
have used THC analogues only; however, one current study is
employing a newly formulated oral capsule (Cannabics®)
containing both CBD and THC in varying ratios [38].
We now are beginning to see human trials underway inves-
tigating the anticancer effects of cannabis. In one of these
studies, mentioned earlier, cannabis will be combined with
temozolomide for treating patients with highly aggressive
brain tumors (GBM). This study aims to build on the preclin-
ical data supporting the pro-apoptotic effects of cannabis on
glial cells in animal models as well as similar effects on
temozolomide-resistant tumors [39]. In addition, there is a
phase 1b, multicenter study combining cannabis with several
chemotherapy agents aiming to determine MTD as well as any
tumor response in patients with pancreatic and hepatocellular
cancer [40]. These findings will help to lay a foundation for
future research using cannabis as an adjunct to other chemo-
therapy agents.
Perhaps the most anticipated study in this category is a
phase 2 Israeli study investigating the anticancer effects of
pure CBD on patients with advanced cancers that have
progressed through all standard treatments [41]. This is the
only study to date to evaluate a cannabis product as a single
anticancer agent in humans. The results of these current stud-
ies will drive future research.
Medical marijuana has potential for therapeutic applications in
oncology, yet the available evidence and legal status pose a
challenge for physicians and oncology providers. There is
moderate level evidence for the use of cannabis in pain man-
agement. Some patients subjectively report benefit from can-
nabis for nausea, appetite, sleep, and anxiety, yet the level of
published evidence remains low. Clinical trials are underway,
but the legal status in the USA presents challenges to research.
It is critical that oncology professionals are able to at least
address the known risks and adverse effects of marijuana
when questions arise from patients. Current available evi-
dence is conflicting in terms of cancer risk. Since marijuana
is smoked less frequently and in smaller amounts, as well as
administered via oral and mucosal routes, the risk for carcino-
genesis may not be as significant as for tobacco. In addition,
there is preliminary research on anticancer effects of cannabis
as well that may somewhat balance out the risk. Overall, med-
ical marijuana may have use in cancer care, but more research
is needed to better inform physicians and patients.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest Shauna M. Birdsall, Timothy C. Birdsall, and
Lucas A. Tims declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent This article does
not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any
of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been
highlighted as:
•• Of major importance
1. California Health and Safety Code Section 11357-11362.9
[Internet]. Available from:
2.•• Abrams DI, Guzman M. Cannabis in cancer care. Clin Pharmacol
Ther [Internet]. 2015;97:57586. Available from http://www.ncbi. the history of cannabis
as medicine, cannabinoid pharmacology, and discusses the
research that has been done on cannabinoids in cancer
symptom management.
3.•• Kramer JL. Medical marijuana for cancer. CA Cancer J Clin
[Internet]. 2015;65:10922. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm. summary tables
comparing the research to date on effect of smoked
marijuana on chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, pain,
and appetite/weight loss.
4.•• Whiting PF, Wolff RF, Deshpande S, Di Nisio M, Duffy S,
Hernandez A V., et al. Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic
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... Nowadays, THC and CBD are used for palliative care in patients with terminal stage of lung cancer. Moreover, these two compounds can help the patients suffering from chemotherapy side effects such as anorexia, vomiting, depression, and pain [13] . Apart from the use in palliative care, THC and CBD have shown antitumorigenic effects in several cancer cell lines [14] . ...
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Background: Lung cancer remains a major factor contributing to morbidity and mortality worldwide. Apart from the chemotherapeutic agents in routine use, factors targeting novel molecular pathways are in clinical trials and provide hope for terminal lung cancer patients. The endocannabinoid system has recently become a popular field of study. Many experimental studies have shown that CBD and THC could be used outside of palliative care, as they play a major role in lung cancer cell apoptosis. The objective of this review is to evaluate the antitumorigenic mechanisms of CBD in lung cancer cells. Methods: We searched the databases MEDLINE,, CENTRAL, and google scholar using specific terms. A total of 246 studies were screened, and nine studies were included in the review. All the selected studies were conducted in vitro, and four of which also had an in vivo component. Included studies were assessed in our review using the ToxRTool. Results and conclusion: The most common cell line used in all of the studies was A549; however, some studies included other cell lines, including H460 and H358. We concluded that CBD has direct antineoplastic effects on lung cancer cells by various mechanisms mediated by cannabinoid receptors or independent of them. All studies referred to an in vitro model; hence, further research is required for this data to have any clinical application.
... The management of physical and psychological symptoms that arise from both cancer and cancer-related treatment is important throughout the continuum of the disease [1]. The role of medical cannabis (MC) as a complementary option to traditional symptom management has become of interest to health professionals [2], but a lack of safety and effectiveness data exists [3]. Additionally, more information regarding the appropriate ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD), dose, and route of administration is needed [4]. ...
... The sum of these scores was reported at baseline and again 6-8 weeks after MC initiation. Results demonstrated a significant decrease in symptom/side-effect burden in both sexes between timepoints: males (median (range)): 12(6-30) to 7(0-20), p < 0.001; females: 14(4-21) to 7 (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12)(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18)(19), p < 0.001. However, contrary to the present study, Bar-Sela et al. did not examine the effect of MC on individual symptoms in relation to sex. ...
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Purpose This study explored whether symptom relief differs by sex in patients with cancer receiving medical cannabis (MC) therapy. Methods This is an analysis of data collected from patients with cancer enrolled in the Quebec Cannabis Registry. MC was initiated for the therapeutic management of cancer symptoms. Patients completed the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r) questionnaire at baseline and 3-month follow-up. We examined the interaction between sex and time on each ESAS-r symptom and the interaction between time and tetrahydrocannabinol:cannabidiol (THC:CBD) ratios for each sex on total symptom burden. Results The analysis included 358 patients (M: 171). There were no sex differences in baseline ESAS-r scores. Three months of MC therapy led to significant improvements in pain (M: − 1.4 ± 0.3, p < 0.001; F: − 1.1 ± 0.3, p < 0.01), tiredness (M: − 1.7 ± 0.4, p < 0.001; F: − 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.05), anxiety (M: − 1.1 ± 0.4, p < 0.05; F: − 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.001), and well-being (M: − 1.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.05; F: − 1.4 ± 0.4, p < 0.01) in both sexes. Only F perceived improved drowsiness (− 1.1 ± 0.4, p < 0.05), nausea (− 0.9 ± 0.3, p < 0.05), lack of appetite (− 1.7 ± 0.4, p < 0.001), and shortness of breath (− 0.9 ± 0.3, p < 0.05). From baseline to 3-month follow-up, THC-dominant MC significantly reduced pain (− 1.52 ± 0.52, p < 0.05) in M, whereas in F it diminished nausea (− 2.52 ± 0.70, p < 0.01) and improved well-being (− 2.41 ± 0.79, p < 0.05). THC:CBD-balanced products significantly reduced pain (− 1.48 ± 0.49, p < 0.05), tiredness (− 1.82 ± 0.62, p < 0.05), anxiety (− 1.83 ± 0.54, p < 0.05), and improved well-being (− 2.01 ± 0.56, p < 0.01) in M. CBD-dominant products did not offer significant symptom relief in either sex. Conclusion The perceived relief of cancer symptoms from MC differs between sexes. More randomized controlled trials are needed to confirm our findings.
... While marijuana is commonly used in people with cancer diagnosis as an appetite enhancer, to alleviate nausea or to treat pain, marijuana as a substance is carcinogenic by itself and linked to increase incidences of leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, and astrocytoma. Cancer associated with cannabis use are increasingly found in regular and heavy users [75,76]. ...
... The individual physician's pre-existing beliefs and attitude toward cannabis influences the judgment they render with regards to its therapeutic potential. 20 In addition to lack of robust evidence available at the current time for medical use of cannabis, numerous other factors which impacts attitudes of physician including, lack of consistency in the list approved indications across states and countries 21,22 , significant variability in chemical constituents (components , purity and contaminants) of medical cannabis, discrepancy regarding its legal status at the federal and state level which in turn impacts medical practice 12,[23][24][25][26] . In this dynamically shifting landscape, the role of physician's knowledge, attitudes and practices related to medical cannabis is important. ...
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Background The trends of recreational use of cannabis and use of cannabis for medical indications (i.e. medical cannabis) have grown in recent years. Despite that, there is still limited scientific evidence to guide clinical decision-making and the strength of evidence for the medical use of cannabis is currently considered to be low. In contrast, there's growing evidence for negative health outcomes related to use of cannabis. In this rapidly shifting landscape, the role of physician's attitudes regarding the therapeutic value of cannabis has become essential. This study aimed to characterize knowledge/experience, attitudes, and potential predictors of clinical practice regarding medical cannabis. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional survey of physicians from 17 countries between 2016-2018. The survey comprised of 28 questions designed to explore physician knowledge, attitude, and practices regarding the use of medical cannabis. Descriptive statistics were used to examine willingness to recommend medical cannabis for medical and psychiatric indications, followed by regression analysis to identify predictors of physician willingness to recommend medical cannabis. Results A total of 323 physicians responded to the survey. Mean age was 35.4 (sd 9.5) years, with 10.04 (sd 8.6) years of clinical experience. 53 percent of physicians were women. Clinical experience with medical cannabis was overall limited (51.4% noted never having recommended medical cannabis; 33% noted inadequate knowledge regarding medical cannabis). Overall willingness to recommend medical cannabis was highest for chemotherapy-induced nausea, refractory chronic neuropathic pain, and spasticity in amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Conclusion This international study examining knowledge, attitudes and practices related to medical cannabis among physicians revealed that there are significant gaps in domain-specific knowledge related to medical cannabis. There is wide variability in willingness to recommend medical cannabis that is not consistent with the current strength of evidence. This study thus highlights the need for greater education related to domain-specific knowledge about medical cannabis.
... While marijuana is commonly used in people with cancer diagnosis as an appetite enhancer, to alleviate nausea or to treat pain, marijuana as a substance is carcinogenic by itself and linked to increase incidences of leukemia, rhabdomyosarcoma, and astrocytoma. Cancer associated with cannabis use are increasingly found in regular and heavy users [75,76]. ...
... Among the various treatment strategies for CRC, studies are being conducted to find natural products or active compounds that exhibit selective cytotoxicity only for CRC cells [6,19,20]. In addition, the medicinal use of C. sativa has recently been the focus by researchers in order to improve many kinds of cancers [21]. Interestingly, supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of C. sativa contains more cannabinoids in the extract [22]. ...
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Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the diseases with the highest rates of prevalence and mortality despite therapeutic methods in the world. In particular, there are not enough methods to treat metastasis of CRC cells to distant organs. Cannabis sativa Linne (C. sativa) is a popular medicinal plant used by humans to treat many diseases. Recently, extracts of C. sativa have shown diverse pharmacological effects as a result of choosing different extraction methods. In this study, we performed experiments to confirm the inhibitory effect and related mechanisms of supercritical extract of C. sativa on metastatic CRC cells. The effect of SEC on the viability of CRC cell lines, CT26 and HCT116, was determined using CCK reagent. Flow cytometry was performed to confirm whether SEC can promote cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Additionally, SEC reduced proliferation of CT26 and HCT116 cells without causing toxicity to normal colon cell line CCD-18Co cells. SEC treatment reduced colony formation in both CRC cell lines, promoted G0/G1 phase arrest and apoptosis in CT26 and HCT116 cells through AMPK activation and MAPKs such as ERK, JNK, and p38 inactivation. Moreover, oral administration of SEC decreased pulmonary metastasis of CT26 cells. Our research demonstrates the inhibitory effect of SEC on CRC cell proliferation and metastasis. Thus, SEC might have therapeutic potential for CRC treatment.
... It also possesses other secondary metabolites such as about 20 flavonoids, two lignans (lignanamides and phenolic amides), and three steroids . C. sativa has been observed to improve appetite and food intake in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients by elevating leptin and ghrelin hormones and depleting peptide tyrosine hormone required for appetite regulation (Birdsall et al. 2016). The ability of the plant to modulate angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE-2) receptors required by the severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) for pathogenesis, and minimize the virus impact and severity by suppressing the protein responsible for its ribonucleic acid (RNA) replication, thereby preventing the virus from penetrating host cells (Wang et al. 2020), have resulted to the plant being touted as a potent drug for treating SARS-CoV-2 patients. ...
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Cannabis sativa, Datura stramonium, Nicotiana tabacum, and Carica papaya are plants that naturally grow in Nigeria. They are reportedly rich in neuroactive compounds that are capable of reacting with the nervous system to elicit psychoactive and/or toxic effects that deter predators. However, despite the toxicological potential of these plants, their recreational use is on the rise due to the psychoactivity they proffer and prevalence in Nigeria. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the plants’ recreational use, mechanism of actions and toxicities. Relevant published documents on psychoactive plants in Nigeria were obtained from Web of Science between 2002 and 2020. Non-English documents, documents not in Science Citation Index Expanded and Google Scholar were removed while 1186 documents were reviewed. Results showed that the plants are recreationally used in Nigeria with a higher prevalence than the global frequency. They are very addictive and lead to dependence. The plants were also observed to elicit different mechanism of action, though the activation of monoaminergic neurotransmission system was common to all. Regrettably, the plants could be toxic when ingested under non-medical conditions. Conclusively, these plants are addictive with potential toxic effects. Therefore, control of the recreational use of these plants should be revamped and overhauled.
Background: Despite the widespread use of medical cannabis, little is known regarding the safety, efficacy, and dosing of cannabis products in children with cancer. The objective of this study was to systematically appraise the existing published literature for the use of cannabis products in children with cancer. Methods: This systematic review, registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (CRD42020187433), searched four databases: MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library. Abstracts and full texts were screened in duplicate. Data on types of cannabis products, doses, formulations, frequencies, routes of administration, indications, and clinical and demographic details as well as reported efficacy outcomes were extracted. Data on cannabinoid-related adverse events were also summarized. Results: Out of 34,611 identified citations, 19 unique studies with a total of 1927 participants with cancer were included: eight retrospective chart reviews, seven randomized controlled trials, two open-label studies, and two case reports. The included studies reported the use of various cannabis products for the management of symptoms. Cannabinoids were commonly used for the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (11 of 19 [58%]). In controlled studies, somnolence, dizziness, dry mouth, and withdrawal due to adverse events were more commonly associated with the use of cannabinoids. Across all included studies, no serious cannabis-related adverse events were reported. Conclusions: Although there is evidence to support the use of cannabis for symptom management, in children with cancer, there is a lack of rigorous evidence to inform the dosing, safety, and efficacy of cannabinoids. Because of the increasing interest in using cannabis, there is an urgent need for more research on medical cannabis in children with cancer.
Cannabis sativa (Hemp) is an herbaceous species used in foods and beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, etc. It has two active constituents: Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol. Cannabinoids suppress uncontrolled growth of cancerous cells, provide pain relief to HIV patients, and help with neurogenic symptoms. Cannabis extracts have exhibited more effectiveness against various bacteria and yeast. Improvement in skin hydration and skin elasticity was observed. Excessive sebum production and proliferation of sebocytes is normalized. Hemp extracts arrest the anagen phase of the hair cycle to cause reversal of the temporal and vertex thinning in Androgenetic alopecia. It has antioxidant potential as well as an anti-ageing effect. Owing to the variability in legislation in different countries, Cannabis sativa poses challenges in research. This chapter discusses the diverse applications of this double-edged herb.
Background Many states have legalized medical cannabis with various reported therapeutic benefits. However, there is little data assessing the effects of cannabis on surgical outcomes. We sought to compare post-operative pancreatic resection complications between cannabis users and non-users. Methods This is a single-center, retrospective review of patients who underwent Whipple or distal pancreatectomy from 1/2017-12/2020. The primary outcome was any in-hospital complication, using Clavien-Dindo. Multivariable regression analysis was performed. Results There were 486 patients who underwent Whipple (n=346, 71.2%) or distal pancreatectomy (n=140, 28.8%). Overall, 21.4% (n=104) reported cannabis use, of whom 80.8% were current users. Cannabis users were younger (60 vs. 66 years, p<0.001), and more likely to have smoked tobacco (p=0.04), but otherwise had similar demographics as non-users. There were 288 (59.3%) patients who developed an in-hospital complication (grade 1-2, 75.3%; grade 3-5, 24.7%). A trend towards increased complications was observed with tobacco smoking (OR 1.33, 95% CI 0.91-1.94, p=0.14), but no association of cannabis use with complications was observed (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.58-1.47, p=0.74). Discussion A significant proportion of patients undergoing pancreatic resection report cannabis use. These results suggest that there was no association between cannabis use and post-operative complications, future prospective evaluation is warranted.
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Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has 9-tetrahydrocannabinol as the main constituent. There has been strict legislation governing the utilization of cannabis locally and worldwide. However, there has been an increasing push to make cannabis legalized, in view of its potential medical and therapeutic effects, for various medical disorders ranging from development disorders to cancer treatment, and being an adjunctive medication for various neurological conditions. It is the aim of this review paper to explore the evidence base for its proposed therapeutic efficacy and to compare the evidence base supporting its proposed therapeutic efficacy with its known and well-researched medical and psychiatric side effects.
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Cannabis and cannabinoid drugs are widely used to treat disease or alleviate symptoms, but their efficacy for specific indications is not clear. To conduct a systematic review of the benefits and adverse events (AEs) of cannabinoids. Twenty-eight databases from inception to April 2015. Randomized clinical trials of cannabinoids for the following indications: nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, appetite stimulation in HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, depression, anxiety disorder, sleep disorder, psychosis, glaucoma, or Tourette syndrome. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. All review stages were conducted independently by 2 reviewers. Where possible, data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis. Patient-relevant/disease-specific outcomes, activities of daily living, quality of life, global impression of change, and AEs. A total of 79 trials (6462 participants) were included; 4 were judged at low risk of bias. Most trials showed improvement in symptoms associated with cannabinoids but these associations did not reach statistical significance in all trials. Compared with placebo, cannabinoids were associated with a greater average number of patients showing a complete nausea and vomiting response (47% vs 20%; odds ratio [OR], 3.82 [95% CI, 1.55-9.42]; 3 trials), reduction in pain (37% vs 31%; OR, 1.41 [95% CI, 0.99-2.00]; 8 trials), a greater average reduction in numerical rating scale pain assessment (on a 0-10-point scale; weighted mean difference [WMD], -0.46 [95% CI, -0.80 to -0.11]; 6 trials), and average reduction in the Ashworth spasticity scale (WMD, -0.36 [95% CI, -0.69 to -0.05]; 7 trials). There was an increased risk of short-term AEs with cannabinoids, including serious AEs. Common AEs included dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, somnolence, euphoria, vomiting, disorientation, drowsiness, confusion, loss of balance, and hallucination. There was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity. There was low-quality evidence suggesting that cannabinoids were associated with improvements in nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, weight gain in HIV infection, sleep disorders, and Tourette syndrome. Cannabinoids were associated with an increased risk of short-term AEs.
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In the early stages, prostate cancer is androgen‑ dependent; therefore, medical castration has shown significant results during the initial stages of this pathology. Despite this early effect, advanced prostate cancer is resilient to such treatment. Recent evidence shows that derivatives of Cannabis sativa and its analogs may exert a protective effect against different types of oncologic pathologies. The purpose of the present study was to detect the presence of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) on cancer cells with a prostatic origin and to evaluate the effect of the in vitro use of synthetic analogs. In order to do this, we used a commercial cell line and primary cultures derived from prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia. The presence of the CB1 and CB2 receptors was determined by immunohistochemistry where we showed a higher expression of these receptors in later stages of the disease (samples with a high Gleason score). Later, treatments were conducted using anandamide, 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and a synthetic analog of anandamide, methanandamide. Using the MTT assay, we proved that the treatments produced a cell growth inhibitory effect on all the different prostate cancer cultures. This effect was demonstrated to be dose-dependent. The use of a specific CB1 receptor blocker (SR141716) confirmed that this effect was produced primarily from the activation of the CB1 receptor. In order to understand the MTT assay results, we determined cell cycle distribution by flow cytometry, which showed no variation at the different cell cycle stages in all the cultures after treatment. Treatment with endocannabinoids resulted in an increase in the percentage of apoptotic cells as determined by Annexin V assays and caused an increase in the levels of activated caspase-3 and a reduction in the levels of Bcl-2 confirming that the reduction in cell viability noted in the MTT assay was caused by the activation of the apoptotic pathway. Finally, we observed that endocannabinoid treatment activated the Erk pathway and at the same time, produced a decrease in the activation levels of the Akt pathway. Based on these results, we suggest that endocannabinoids may be a beneficial option for the treatment of prostate cancer that has become nonresponsive to common therapies.
As a therapeutic agent, most people are familiar with the palliative effects of the primary psychoactive constituent of Cannabis sativa (CS), Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a molecule active at both the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor subtypes. Through the activation primarily of CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, THC can reduce nausea, emesis and pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. During the last decade, however, several studies have now shown that CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists can act as direct antitumor agents in a variety of aggressive cancers. In addition to THC, there are many other cannabinoids found in CS, and a majority produces little to no psychoactivity due to the inability to activate cannabinoid receptors. For example, the second most abundant cannabinoid in CS is the non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD). Using animal models, CBD has been shown to inhibit the progression of many types of cancer including glioblastoma (GBM), breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer. This review will center on mechanisms by which CBD, and other plant-derived cannabinoids inefficient at activating cannabinoid receptors, inhibit tumor cell viability, invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, and the stem-like potential of cancer cells. We will also discuss the ability of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to induce autophagy and apoptotic-mediated cancer cell death, and enhance the activity of first-line agents commonly used in cancer treatment.
Cannabis has been used in medicine for thousands of years prior to achieving its current illicit substance status. Cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis sativa, mimic the effects of the endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), activating specific cannabinoid receptors, particularly CB1 found predominantly in the central nervous system and CB2 found predominantly in cells involved with immune function. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main bioactive cannabinoid in the plant, has been available as a prescription medication approved for treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and anorexia associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome. Cannabinoids may be of benefit in the treatment of cancer-related pain, possibly synergistic with opioid analgesics. Cannabinoids have been shown to be of benefit in the treatment of HIV-related peripheral neuropathy, suggesting that they may be worthy of study in patients with other neuropathic symptoms. Cannabinoids have a favorable drug safety profile, but their medical use is predominantly limited by their psychoactive effects and their limited bioavailability. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. © 2015 American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
To investigate the association of cannabis use and tobacco smoking on the incidence of bladder cancer within the California Men's Health Study cohort. We evaluated the records of 84,170 participants in a multiethnic cohort of men aged 45-69 years. Information on demographic and lifestyle factors including smoking history and cannabis use was collected using mailed questionnaires between 2002 and 2003. We linked the study data with clinical records including cancer data from electronic health records. Overall 34,000 (41%) cohort members reported cannabis use, 47,092 (57%) reported tobacco use, 22,500 (27%) reported using both, and 23,467 (29%) used neither. Men were followed over an 11-year period and 279 (0.3%) developed incident bladder tumors. Among cannabis users, 89 (0.3%) developed bladder cancer in comparison to 190 (0.4%) men who did not report cannabis use (P < .001). After adjusting for age, race or ethnicity, and body mass index, using tobacco only was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer (hazard regression [HR], 1.52; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12-2.07), whereas cannabis use only was associated with a 45% reduction in bladder cancer incidence (HR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31-1.00). Using both cannabis and tobacco was associated with an HR of 1.28 (95% CI, 0.91-1.80). Although a cause and effect relationship has not been established, cannabis use may be inversely associated with bladder cancer risk in this population. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Marijuana use is legal in two states and additional states are considering legalization. Approximately 18 million Americans are current marijuana users. There is currently no consensus on whether marijuana use is associated with cancer risk. Our objective is to review the epidemiologic studies on this possible association. We identified 34 epidemiologic studies on upper aerodigestive tract cancers (n = 11), lung cancer (n = 6), testicular cancer (n = 3), childhood cancers (n = 6), all cancers (n = 1), anal cancer (n = 1), penile cancer (n = 1), non-Hodgkin lymphoma (n = 2), malignant primary gliomas (n = 1), bladder cancer (n = 1), and Kaposi sarcoma (n = 1). Studies on head and neck cancer reported increased and decreased risks, possibly because there is no association, or because risks differ by human papillomavirus status or geographic differences. The lung cancer studies largely appear not to support an association with marijuana use, possibly because of the smaller amounts of marijuana regularly smoked compared with tobacco. Three testicular cancer case-control studies reported increased risks with marijuana use [summary ORs, 1.56; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.09-2.23 for higher frequency and 1.50 (95% CI, 1.08-2.09) for ≥10 years]. For other cancer sites, there is still insufficient data to make any conclusions. Considering that marijuana use may change due to legalization, well-designed studies on marijuana use and cancer are warranted. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 24(1); 15-31. ©2015 AACR. ©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.
Answer questions and earn CME/CNEMarijuana has been used for centuries, and interest in its medicinal properties has been increasing in recent years. Investigations into these medicinal properties has led to the development of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals such as dronabinol, nabilone, and nabiximols. Dronabinol is best studied in the treatment of nausea secondary to cancer chemotherapy and anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for those indications. Nabilone has been best studied for the treatment of nausea secondary to cancer chemotherapy. There are also limited studies of these drugs for other conditions. Nabiximols is only available in the United States through clinical trials, but is used in Canada and the United Kingdom for the treatment of spasticity secondary to multiple sclerosis and pain. Studies of marijuana have concentrated on nausea, appetite, and pain. This article will review the literature regarding the medical use of marijuana and these cannabinoid pharmaceuticals (with emphasis on indications relevant to oncology), as well as available information regarding adverse effects of marijuana use. CA Cancer J Clin 2015. © 2014 American Cancer Society.