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In the last decade the use of medical cannabis (MC) for palliative cancer treatment has risen. However, the choice between products is arbitrary and most patients are using Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-dominant cannabis products. In this study, we aimed to assess the short-term outcomes of MC treatment prescribed by oncologists in relation to the type of cannabis they receive. A comparative analysis was used to assess the differences in treatment effectiveness and safety between THC-dominant (n = 56, 52%), cannabidiol (CBD)-dominant (n = 19, 18%), and mixed (n = 33, 30%) MC treatments. Oncology patients (n = 108) reported on multiple symptoms in baseline questionnaires, initiated MC treatment, and completed a one-month follow-up. Most parameters improved significantly from baseline, including pain intensity, affective and sensory pain, sleep quality and duration, cancer distress, and both physical and psychological symptom burden. There was no significant difference between the three MC treatments in the MC-related safety profile. Generally, there were no differences between the three MC treatments in pain intensity and in most secondary outcomes. Unexpectedly, CBD-dominant oil treatments were similar to THC-dominant treatments in their beneficial effects for most secondary outcomes. THC-dominant treatments showed significant superiority in their beneficial effect only in sleep duration compared to CBD-dominant treatments. This work provides evidence that, though patients usually consume THC-dominant products, caregivers should also consider CBD-dominant products as a useful treatment for cancer-related symptoms.
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pharmaceuticals
Article
Short-Term Medical Cannabis Treatment Regimens
Produced Beneficial Eects among Palliative
Cancer Patients
Joshua Aviram 1, Gil M. Lewitus 1, Yelena Vysotski 1, Anton Uribayev 2, Shiri Procaccia 1,
Idan Cohen 3, Anca Leibovici 2, Mahmud Abo-Amna 3, Luiza Akria 2, Dmitry Goncharov 2,
Neomi Mativ 2, Avia Kauman 2, Ayelet Shai 2, Or Hazan 1, Gil Bar-Sela 3,4 ,* and David Meiri 1 ,*
1Faculty of Biology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel;
shukiaviram@gmail.com (J.A.); lgil@technion.ac.il (G.M.L.); lalatrololo@gmail.com (Y.V.);
shiri.procaccia@gmail.com (S.P.); orhazan@gmail.com (O.H.)
2Department of Oncology, Galilee Medical Center, Nahariya 22100, Israel; AntonU@gmc.gov.il (A.U.);
AncaL@gmc.gov.il (A.L.); AkriaL@gmc.gov.il (L.A.); DmitriG@gmc.gov.il (D.G.);
NeomyM@gmc.gov.il (N.M.); AviaK@gmc.gov.il (A.K.); ayelets@gmc.gov.il (A.S.)
3Cancer Center, Emek Medical Center, Afula 18101, Israel; idan5161@gmail.com (I.C.);
mahmud_ab@clalit.org.il (M.A.-A.)
4Faculty of Medicine, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel
*Correspondence: gil_ba@clalit.org.il (G.B.-S.); dmeiri@technion.ac.il (D.M.); Tel.: +972-4-6495723 (G.B.-S.);
+972-77-8871680 or +972-525330031 (D.M.)
Received: 14 November 2020; Accepted: 27 November 2020; Published: 30 November 2020


Abstract:
In the last decade the use of medical cannabis (MC) for palliative cancer treatment has risen.
However, the choice between products is arbitrary and most patients are using Tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC)-dominant cannabis products. In this study, we aimed to assess the short-term outcomes
of MC treatment prescribed by oncologists in relation to the type of cannabis they receive.
A comparative analysis was used to assess the dierences in treatment eectiveness and safety
between THC-dominant (n=56, 52%), cannabidiol (CBD)-dominant (n=19, 18%), and mixed
(
n=33
, 30%) MC treatments. Oncology patients (n=108) reported on multiple symptoms in baseline
questionnaires, initiated MC treatment, and completed a one-month follow-up. Most parameters
improved significantly from baseline, including pain intensity, aective and sensory pain, sleep
quality and duration, cancer distress, and both physical and psychological symptom burden.
There was no significant dierence between the three MC treatments in the MC-related safety
profile. Generally, there were no dierences between the three MC treatments in pain intensity
and in most secondary outcomes. Unexpectedly, CBD-dominant oil treatments were similar to
THC-dominant treatments in their beneficial eects for most secondary outcomes. THC-dominant
treatments showed significant superiority in their beneficial eect only in sleep duration compared
to CBD-dominant treatments. This work provides evidence that, though patients usually consume
THC-dominant products, caregivers should also consider CBD-dominant products as a useful
treatment for cancer-related symptoms.
Keywords: medical cannabis; THC; CBD; palliative cancer treatment; oncology
1. Introduction
Cancer patients suer from many conditions resulting from the disease or its treatment.
These include cancer-related pain [
1
], anxiety [
2
], depression [
3
], insomnia [
4
], decreased quality of
life [
5
], and increased disability [
6
]. These comorbidities are some of the underlying causes of cancer
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435; doi:10.3390/ph13120435 www.mdpi.com/journal/pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 2 of 16
patients’ suering while undergoing therapies and some may even lead to worsened prognosis [
3
].
To date, there is still no optimal treatment addressing all of these comorbidities [7].
Currently, Medical Cannabis (MC) is one of the options to alleviate cancer patients’ suering [
8
].
While the preclinical literature is vast [
9
13
], there is a paucity of clinical literature [
14
], leading
to arbitrary MC treatment regimen decisions based mostly on the oncologist experience and on
patient demands. Many oncologists find MC appropriate as the first-line therapy for cancer-related
symptoms [
15
] and a recent study showed that the majority of cancer patients request MC treatment
from their oncologist [
16
]. Nonetheless, there is not enough data on the negative and positive eects of
MC treatment on cancer patients [17].
Importantly, cannabis is not a single compound; it is comprised from many compounds in dierent
concentrations, including many phytocannabinoids [
18
,
19
] with diverse biological activities [
20
,
21
].
The concentration of these compounds (i.e., chemovar) is also vastly dierent between dierent
strains (i.e., cultivars) [
22
24
]. This makes traditional treatment by titrating of a single molecule
particularly dicult. Thus far, Randomized Controlled Trials of cancer-related pain focused mainly on
(-)-
9
-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [
25
31
], but currently, probably due to the large media hype
and its more enabling regulation worldwide, there is a major shift of focus to cannabidiol (CBD) [
32
].
Today, most countries that approve MC treatment require cultivators to report and adhere only by the
two major phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD [33].
In this study, we conducted a prospective, short-term study that compared the eectiveness and
safety of the most widely used categorization of MC treatment, conceptualized by Small
et al., (1973)
,
to THC-dominant as type I cannabis, equal THC and CBD as type II, and CBD-dominant as type III [
34
].
2. Results
A total of 293 patients were enrolled to the study, of them, 228 patients completed the baseline
(T
0
) questionnaires and initiated MC treatment (Figure 1, CONSORT flow diagram). A follow-up
questionnaire was completed by 147 patients at T
1
. Of these patients, 108 patients reported on full MC
treatment information, these patients represent the analyzed sample for the current study. About 95%
of the patients provided data online and the rest by telephone calls.
Pharmaceuticals 2020, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 2 of 16
and increased disability [6]. These comorbidities are some of the underlying causes of cancer patients’
suffering while undergoing therapies and some may even lead to worsened prognosis [3]. To date,
there is still no optimal treatment addressing all of these comorbidities [7].
Currently, Medical Cannabis (MC) is one of the options to alleviate cancer patients ' suffering [8].
While the preclinical literature is vast [9–13], there is a paucity of clinical literature [14], leading to
arbitrary MC treatment regimen decisions based mostly on the oncologist experience and on patient
demands. Many oncologists find MC appropriate as the first-line therapy for cancer-related
symptoms [15] and a recent study showed that the majority of cancer patients request MC treatment
from their oncologist [16]. Nonetheless, there is not enough data on the negative and positive effects
of MC treatment on cancer patients [17].
Importantly, cannabis is not a single compound; it is comprised from many compounds in
different concentrations, including many phytocannabinoids [18,19] with diverse biological activities
[20,21]. The concentration of these compounds (i.e., chemovar) is also vastly different between
different strains (i.e., cultivars) [22–24]. This makes traditional treatment by titrating of a single
molecule particularly difficult. Thus far, Randomized Controlled Trials of cancer-related pain
focused mainly on (-)-Δ9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) [25–31], but currently, probably due to
the large media hype and its more enabling regulation worldwide, there is a major shift of focus to
cannabidiol (CBD) [32]. Today, most countries that approve MC treatment require cultivators to
report and adhere only by the two major phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD [33].
In this study, we conducted a prospective, short-term study that compared the effectiveness and
safety of the most widely used categorization of MC treatment, conceptualized by Small et al. (1973), to
THC-dominant as type I cannabis, equal THC and CBD as type II, and CBD-dominant as type III [34].
2. Results
A total of 293 patients were enrolled to the study, of them, 228 patients completed the baseline
(T0) questionnaires and initiated MC treatment (Figure 1, CONSORT flow diagram). A follow-up
questionnaire was completed by 147 patients at T1. Of these patients, 108 patients reported on full
MC treatment information, these patients represent the analyzed sample for the current study. About
95% of the patients provided data online and the rest by telephone calls.
Figure 1. Consort flowchart diagram. T0, Baseline; T1, one-month follow-up; MC, medical cannabis;
BL, baseline; AEs, adverse effects.
Figure 1.
Consort flowchart diagram. T
0
, Baseline; T
1
, one-month follow-up; MC, medical cannabis;
BL, baseline; AEs, adverse eects.
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 3 of 16
2.1. MC Treatment Characteristics
MC treatment information was reported by 108 patients at T
1
and included type I (n=56, 52%;
patients consuming THC-dominant cultivars only; included three products: THC(T)20/CBD(C)4,
T15/C3 and T10/C2), type III (n=19, 18%; patients consuming CBD-dominant cultivars only; included
three products: T1/C20, T5/C10 and T3/C15), and type II (i.e., mixed; n=33, 30%; patients consuming
cultivars with similar THC:CBD ratio that included two products: T10/C10 and T5/C5, or patients
consuming both THC-dominant and CBD-dominant cultivars in the same day) MC treatments.
Sublingual MC oil extract was the most common route of administration for type III and for type
II treatments and less common for type I treatments (n=17, 89%, n=19, 58%, and n=19, 34%,
respectively), whereas patients consuming type I treatments consumed it mostly (n=32, 57%) by
inflorescence inhalation. Inflorescence inhalation was less common for type III and for type II treatments
(n=2, 11% and n=7, 21%, respectively). Some patients consuming type I and type II (n=5, 9% and
n=7, 21%
), but not for type III, utilized both administration routes (
χ2(2)
=26.02, p<0.001). Overall
reported monthly MC dose was similar for all three treatments (20 (20–20) grams).
THC and CBD monthly doses were significantly dierent between the three treatments
(
χ2(2) =58.07
,p<0.001 and
χ2(2)
=68.28, p<0.001, respectively). Patients consuming type I treatments
consumed 600 (400–725) mg/month of CBD (with weight-adjusted dose of 7.8 (5.7–11) mg/kg/month) and
3000 (2000–3600) mg/month of THC (with weight-adjusted dose of 39 (29–56) mg/kg/month). Patients
consuming type III treatments consumed 2000 (2000–3000) mg/month of CBD (with weight-adjusted
dose of 40 (26–46) mg/kg/month) and 1000 (600–1000) mg/month of THC (with weight-adjusted dose
of 12 (8.4–15) mg/kg/month). Patients consuming type II treatments consumed 2000 (1500–2000)
mg/month of CBD (with weight-adjusted dose of 30 (20–36) mg/kg/month) and 2000 (1400–2000)
mg/month of THC (with weight-adjusted dose of 29 (20–36) mg/kg/month).
2.2. Baseline Demographics and Cancer Characteristics
Sixty-two of the patients in the sample were females (57%) with an average age of 64 (52–72) years.
Demographic characteristics did not dier between the MC treatments (Table 1). Oncology diagnoses
were heterogenous, with breast cancer being the most frequent diagnosis (n=30, 28%), followed by
lung, colon and ovarian cancers (n=15, 14%, n=15, 14%, and n=5, 5%; respectively). Most patients
(n=48, 44%) were categorized as in IV stage cancer where 57 of the patients (53%) were at first-line
of oncology treatment, meaning that most patients were diagnosed and started treatment while in
advanced metastatic disease. Chemotherapy was the most prevalent current treatment protocol (n=56,
52%), followed by biological and immunological cancer treatments protocols (n=15, 14% and n=10,
9%, respectively). Most patients (n=76, 70%) were scored by the oncologist as not disabled (scored
1
based on Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Status score). Additionally, no
significant dierences were found in cancer characteristics between the three MC treatments (Table 2).
Table 1. Demographic characteristics.
Parameters Type I
n=56
Type III
n=19
Type II
n=33
Total
n=108
(χ2)/Kruskal–Wallis rank ††
(p-value) #
Median (IQR)
Age (years) 62 (49–68) 66 (54–74) 66 (56–72) 64 (52–72) 3.37 †† (0.19)
Unknown 4 2 2 8
No. of patients (%)
Gender Gender
Male 25 (45) 6 (32) 15 (45) Male 25 (45)
Female 31 (55) 13 (68) 18 (55) Female 31 (55)
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 4 of 16
Table 1. Cont.
Parameters Type I
n=56
Type III
n=19
Type II
n=33
Total
n=108
(χ2)/Kruskal–Wallis rank ††
(p-value) #
Median (IQR)
Weight (kg) 72 (65–80) 69 (53–77) 66 (55–80) 70 (59–80) 2.12 †† (0.35)
Unknown 7 5 5 17
BMI 25 (22–29) 24 (21–26) 26 (21–28) 25 (22–28) 0.70 †† (0.70)
Unknown 12 7 6 25
No. of patients (%)
Comorbidities (yes) 19 (34) 5 (26) 7 (21) 31 (29) 1.21 (0.54)
Unknown 1 1 3 5
Past cannabis
experience (yes) 17 (30) 5 (26) 7 (21) 29 (27) 0.88 (0.64)
, Pearson’s Chi-squared test;
††
, Kruskal–Wallis rank sum test; kg, kilograms; BMI, body mass index; IQR,
inter quartile range; n, number of patients; where missing nis not specified, there are no missing data; Type I,
THC-dominant treatments; Type III, CBD-dominant treatments; Type II, equal THC:CBD concentration treatments;
#, Significance between the three dierent treatment regimens.
Table 2. Cancer characteristics.
Parameters Type I
n=56
Type III
n=19
Type II
n=33
Total
n=108 χ2(p-Value) #
No. of patients (%)
Solid tumor etiology
Breast 19 (34) 3 (16) 8 (24) 30 (28) 10.81 (0.21)
Lung 9 (16) 2 (11) 4 (12) 15 (14)
Colon 8 (14) 5 (26) 2 (6) 15 (14)
Ovaries 1 (2) 2 (11) 2 (6) 5 (5)
Other 18 (32) 6 (32) 17 (52) 41 (38)
Solid tumor staging
I 3 (5) 1 (5) 3 (9) 7 (7) 4.30 (0.64)
II 8 (14) 1 (5) 6 (18) 15 (14)
III 4 (7) 3 (16) 3 (9) 10 (9)
IV 26 (46) 11 (58) 11 (33) 48 (44)
Unknown 15 3 10 28
Oncological treatment line
1st 30 (54) 8 (42) 19 (58) 57 (53) 2.65 (0.26)
2nd 18 (32) 10 (53) 9 (27) 37 (34)
Unknown 8 1 5 14
Oncological treatment
Chemotherapy 27 (48) 11 (58) 18 (55) 56 (52) 0.67 (0.72)
Biological 8 (14) 3 (16) 4 (12) 15 (14) 0.15 (0.93)
Hormonal 7 (12) 0 4 (12) 11 (10) 2.61 (0.27)
Immunological 6 (11) 1 (5) 3 (9) 10 (9) 0.50 (0.78)
Radiation 1 (2) 1 (5) 0 2 (2) 1.84 (0.40)
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 5 of 16
Table 2. Cont.
Parameters Type I
n=56
Type III
n=19
Type II
n=33
Total
n=108 χ2(p-Value) #
No. of patients (%)
ECOG score
1 39 (70) 12 (63) 25 (75) 76 (70) 0.15 (0.92)
2 14 (25) 5 (26) 8 (24) 27 (25)
Unknown 3 2 0 5
χ2
, Pearson’s Chi-squared test; n, Number of patients; ECOG, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance
Status;
, numbers does not add up to 100% due to concomitant treatments; where missing nis not specified,
there are no missing data;
#
, Significance between the three dierent treatment regimens; Type I, THC-dominant
treatments; Type III, CBD-dominant treatments; Type II, equal THC: CBD concentration treatments.
2.3. MC Treatment Safety
Fourteen patients stopped MC treatment due to Adverse Eects (AEs), such as dizziness (n=2),
hallucinations (n=2), anxiety (n=1), faints (n=1), fatigue (n=1), nausea (n=1), combination of
bad taste and drowsiness (n=1), and combination of restlessness and weakness (n=1); four patients
did not specify the AEs that led to MC treatment discontinuation. Therefore, these patients are not
analyzed in the T1dataset.
Overall, 24 patients (22%) reported on at least one MC-related AE that did not led to MC treatment
discontinuation. In a descending order, AEs consisted of central nervous system (CNS; n=14, 13%),
gastrointestinal (GI, n=9, 8%), psychological (n=7, 7%), musculoskeletal (n=4, 4%), ophthalmic
(
n=4, 4%
), cardiovascular (n=2, 2%), and auditory (n=2, 2%) AEs. No significant dierences were
found between the three MC treatment regimens in MC-related AEs by aected systems (Table 3).
Table 3. Medical cannabis treatment regimen-related adverse eects.
Parameters Type I
n=56
Type III
n=19
Type II
n=33 χ2(p-Value) #
No. of patients (%)
Overall adverse eects 10 (18) 3 (16) 11 (33) 3.02 (0.22)
Central nervous system 6 (11) 1 (5) 7 (21) 2.94 (0.23)
Gastrointestinal 3 (5) 2 (11) 4 (12) 1.30 (0.52)
Psychological 2 (4) 1 (5) 4 (12) 2.37 (0.30)
Musculoskeletal 1 (2) 0 3 (9) 3.78 (0.15)
Ophthalmic 1 (2) 1 (5) 2 (6) 1.17 (0.56)
Cardiovascular 0 0 2 (6) 4.44 (0.11)
Auditory 0 0 2 (6) 4.44 (0.11)
χ2
, Pearson’s Chi-squared test; AEs, adverse eects;
#
, significance between the three dierent treatment
regimens; Type I, THC-dominant treatments; Type III, CBD-dominant treatments; Type II, equal THC:CBD
concentration treatments.
The most frequent specific AEs were dizziness and tiredness (n=9, 8%; for both) (Table 4). Due to
the non-frequent reports of specific AEs, we could not assess the dierences between them for the three
MC treatments.
Notably, 21 (13%) patients that are not analyzed in the T
1
dataset died during the first month of
MC treatment. Therefore, their MC treatment type is unknown.
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 6 of 16
Table 4. Reported non-serious, MC-related adverse events.
Total n=108
Central nervous system No. of patients (%)
Confusion 4 (4)
Disorientation 4 (4)
Impaired attention 3 (3)
Dizziness 9 (8)
Falls 3 (3)
Feeling drunk 6 (6)
Decreased physical sensation 4 (4)
Impaired balance 6 (6)
Impaired memory 5 (5)
Impaired psychomotor functions 5 (5)
Impaired coordination 5 (5)
Increased awareness 5 (5)
Impaired speech 5 (5)
Tiredness 9 (8)
Vertigo 5 (5)
Gastrointestinal No. of patients (%)
Abdominal discomfort 7 (7)
Abdominal pain 6 (6)
Decreased appetite 7 (7)
Increased appetite 3 (3)
Loss of appetite 5 (5)
Bad taste 8 (7)
Constipation 5 (5)
Diarrhea 6 (6)
Dry mouth 6 (6)
Heartburn 5 (5)
Decreased mouth sensation 5 (5)
Mouth ulcers 5 (5)
Nausea 6 (6)
Vomiting 6 (6)
Mouth pain 5 (5)
Thirst 6 (6)
Psychological No. of patients (%)
Unusual thinking 4 (4)
Anxiety 4 (4)
Bad mood 6 (6)
Sweet craving 5 (5)
Depression 4 (4)
Decreased interest 5 (5)
Euphoria 4 (4)
Forgetfulness 4 (4)
Hallucinations 4 (4)
Hyperactivity 3 (3)
Loss of time sensation 4 (4)
Nervousness 4 (4)
Nightmares 3 (3)
Paranoia 3 (3)
Weird dreams 2 (2)
Psychosis * 2 (2)
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 7 of 16
Table 4. Cont.
Total n=108
Musculoskeletal No. of patients (%)
Bone pain 3 (3)
Joint pain 3 (3)
Jaw stiness 2 (2)
Decreased motor ability 2 (2)
Limb weakness 3 (3)
Muscle pain 3 (3)
Tremor 1 (<1)
Cardiovascular No. of patients (%)
Hypertension 1 (<1)
Hypotension 2 (2)
Irregular pulse 1 (<1)
Orthostatic hypotension 2 (2)
Palpitations 2 (2)
Ophthalmic No. of patients (%)
Blurred vision 4 (4)
Red eyes 1 (<1)
Vision alterations 1 (<1)
Itchy Eyes 1 (<1)
Light sensitivity 3 (3)
Auditory No. of patients (%)
Ears buzzing 2 (2)
Decreased hearing 2 (2)
Noise sensitivity 1 (<1)
* diagnosed by psychiatrist; some of the adverse eect reports are concomitant.
2.4. MC Treatment Regimens’ Eect
Assessing the eect of MC treatment (the change from T
0
to T
1
), for all of the evaluated parameters,
demonstrated that there was a significant (p<0.05) improvement for several of the parameters.
Specifically, significant improvement from baseline was reported for weekly average pain intensity,
aective and sensory pain intensities, sleep quality and duration and in MSAS distress, physical
(p<0.01) and psychological indexes. Additionally, a decrease in analgesics consumption was also
demonstrated. Notably, we found no significant change from T
0
to T
1
for least and worst pain
intensities, weight, body mass index (BMI), pain catastrophizing scale, sleep latency, depression,
disability, QoL, and for anxiety (p>0.05) (Table 5).
For the above-mentioned parameters that improved significantly from T
0
to T
1
, we analyzed
the dierences between the three MC treatments. We found that the median change from T
0
to T
1
between the three MC treatments was significantly dierent in MSAS physical index (
χ2(2)
=6.91,
p<0.05) and in sleep duration (
χ2(2)
=6.02, p<0.05). Specifically, for MSAS physical index, post
hoc analyses showed a trend for superiority of type III and type I treatments (
16 (
2 to 19) and
8 (+0.25 to
20)), respectively) compared to mixed treatments (
1 (+8 to
12)). Moreover, for MSAS
physical index
30% clinical improvement, patients consuming type III treatments reported higher
rate of response (
n=14, 74%
), compared to type I (n=28, 50%) and type II (n=10, 30%) treatments
(
χ2(2) =9.24
,
p<0.01
). For sleep duration, post hoc analyses showed significance of superiority for
type I treatments (+0.5 (0 to +2) h) compared to type III treatments (0 (1 to +0.5) h) (Figure 2).
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 8 of 16
Table 5. Dierence from baseline in outcome parameters.
Parameters T0T1n=108
Two-Sample
Kolmogorov-Smirnov
Test (p-Value)
Decrease in
Score Indicates
Median (IQR) Unknown
Weight (Kg) 72 (60–80) 70 (59–80) 17 0.10 (0.72) Worsening
BMI (weight (kg)/[height (m)]2)26 (22–29) 25 (22–28) 25 0.07 (0.97) Worsening
Weekly least pain intensity (NPS, 0–10) 5 (2–7.2) 3 (1–6) 35 0.16 (0.27) Improvement
Weekly worst pain intensity (NPS, 0–10) 8 (6–9) 6 (5–8) 35 0.20 (0.10) Improvement
Weekly average pain intensity (NPS, 0–10) 7 (3–8.8) 5 (1.5–7) 5 0.22 (<0.05) Improvement
Aective pain intensity (McGill questionnaire, 0–12) 7 (4.5–9) 4 (2–7) 43 0.34 (<0.01) Improvement
Sensory pain intensity (McGill questionnaire, 0–33) 18 (14–24) 13 (7–20) 45 0.28 (<0.05) Improvement
Pain catastrophizing scale (PCS, 0–52) 28 (15–37) 22 (7–36) 17 0.13 (0.47) Improvement
Sleep quality (PSQI global score, 0–21) 12 (9–15) 9 (5.2–12) 30 0.29 (<0.01) Improvement
Sleep duration (h) 5 (4–6.5) 6 (5–7.5) 8 0.25 (<0.05) Worsening
Sleep latency (min) 45 (30–60) 30 (15–60) 11 0.17 (0.10) Improvement
Depression (BDI, 0–63) 17 (10–24) 15 (9–21) 10 0.10 (0.64) Improvement
Quality of life (EQ-5, 0–10) 4 (3–6) 3 (2–5) 5 0.13 (0.37) Improvement
Anxiety (GAD-7, 0–21) 8 (2.8–14) 5 (2–11) 8 0.14 (0.28) Improvement
MSAS distress index (0–100) 44 (25–64) 34 (19–46) 0 0.20 (<0.05) Improvement
MSAS physical index (0–120) 38 (18–50) 27 (12–40) 0 0.23 (<0.01) Improvement
MSAS psychological index (0–60) 24 (14–40) 16 (8–32) 0 0.22 (<0.05) Improvement
No. of patients (%)
Analgesics consumption (yes) 60 (56) 40 (37) 1 6.8 (<0.01) Improvement
BL, Baseline; m, meter; NPS, Numerical pain scale; PSQI, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; BDI, Beck depression
index; EQ-5, EuroQol questionnaire; GAD-7, General anxiety disorder questionnaire; IQR, Inter quartile range; Kg,
Kilograms; BMI, Body mass index; MSAS, Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale; n, Number of patients; Range is
indicated next to each parameter.
While there was a general decrease in analgesic medications consumption, there were no significant
dierences between the three MC treatments in the rates of patients that consumed them at T
0
and
stopped at T1(χ2(2) =0.28, p=0.87).
As patients can consume either sublingual oil extract or inflorescence by inhalation, we also
compared between these dierent routes of administration. No significant dierences were found
between patients that consumed only type I cultivars by sublingual oil extract (n=19) and patients
that consumed only type I cultivars by inflorescence inhalation (n=32) in the median change from T
0
to T
1
of all parameters (p>0.05). In addition, comparative analysis between patients that consumed
only type III cultivars by sublingual oil extract (n=17) and patients that consumed only type I
cultivars by inflorescence inhalation (n=32) demonstrated that there was no significant dierence in
the median change from T
0
to T
1
of most parameters, excluding sleep duration. Overall, we found
superiority for consumption of type I treatments by inflorescence inhalation (+1 (0.31 to +2.4) h)
compared to consumption of type III treatments by sublingual oil extract in sleep duration extension
(0 (1 to +0.5) h) (χ2(1) =0.50, p<0.05).
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 9 of 16
Pharmaceuticals 2020, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 16
Figure 2. MC Treatment regimens significant differential effects. (A) Differences between the three
MC treatments in weekly average pain intensity; (B) Differences between the three MC treatments in
affective pain intensity; (C) Differences between the three MC treatments in sensory pain intensity; (D)
Differences between the three MC treatments in sleep quality; (E) Differences between the three MC
treatments in sleep duration; (F) Differences between the three MC treatments in MSAS general distress
index; (G) Differences between the three MC treatments in MSAS physical index; (H) Differences
between the three MC treatments in MSAS psychological index; CBD, Cannabidiol; THC, ()-Δ9-trans-
tetrahydrocannabinol; MSAS, Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale; The dashed lines represent the
baseline (T0) values of their corresponding parameters; The box-plot values represent the raw median
change from baseline (T0) to one-month follow-up (T1); n, Number of patients; n.S, Non-significant; Type
I, THC-dominant treatments; Type III, CBD-dominant treatments; Type II, equal THC:CBD
concentration treatments; Median and IQR change from baseline are calculated individually for each
patient, the presented change from BL is the median of all individual patients and not the difference
between the medians of BL and one-month follow-up; p values are adjusted for multiple comparisons;
The direction of the arrows indicates the desired symptoms improvement trajectory.
While there was a general decrease in analgesic medications consumption, there were no
significant differences between the three MC treatments in the rates of patients that consumed them
at T0 and stopped at T1 (χ²(2) = 0.28, p = 0.87).
As patients can consume either sublingual oil extract or inflorescence by inhalation, we also
compared between these different routes of administration. No significant differences were found
between patients that consumed only type I cultivars by sublingual oil extract (n = 19) and patients
that consumed only type I cultivars by inflorescence inhalation (n = 32) in the median change from T0
to T1 of all parameters (p > 0.05). In addition, comparative analysis between patients that consumed
only type III cultivars by sublingual oil extract (n = 17) and patients that consumed only type I
cultivars by inflorescence inhalation (n = 32) demonstrated that there was no significant difference in
the median change from T0 to T1 of most parameters, excluding sleep duration. Overall, we found
superiority for consumption of type I treatments by inflorescence inhalation (+1 (0.31 to +2.4) h)
Figure 2.
MC Treatment regimens significant dierential eects. (
A
) Dierences between the three
MC treatments in weekly average pain intensity; (
B
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in
aective pain intensity; (
C
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in sensory pain intensity;
(
D
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in sleep quality; (
E
) Dierences between the
three MC treatments in sleep duration; (
F
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in MSAS
general distress index; (
G
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in MSAS physical index;
(
H
) Dierences between the three MC treatments in MSAS psychological index; CBD, Cannabidiol;
THC, (
)-
9
-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol; MSAS, Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale; The dashed
lines represent the baseline (T
0
) values of their corresponding parameters; The box-plot values represent
the raw median change from baseline (T
0
) to one-month follow-up (T
1
); n, Number of patients; N.S,
Non-significant; Type I, THC-dominant treatments; Type III, CBD-dominant treatments; Type II, equal
THC:CBD concentration treatments; Median and IQR change from baseline are calculated individually
for each patient, the presented change from BL is the median of all individual patients and not the
dierence between the medians of BL and one-month follow-up; pvalues are adjusted for multiple
comparisons; The direction of the arrows indicates the desired symptoms improvement trajectory.
3. Discussion
In this “real-world” study on palliative care in oncology patients, we found a significant
improvement in most of the assessed parameters, including reduced pain intensity, improved
sleep, alleviated cancer symptoms and a decrease in pharmaceutical analgesics consumption.
We demonstrated that this improvement from baseline is rapid and apparent, already at one month after
MC initiation. This symptom relief profile is supported by previous studies [
35
40
], while it is opposite
to the expected trajectory of symptoms in palliative cancer patients [
41
]. However, unlike previous
studies that demonstrated an increase of appetite and weight gain [
42
,
43
], as well as anxiolytic [
44
],
antidepressant [
45
], and quality of life (QoL) improvement properties [
46
]; we found no significant
short-term improvement for those in the allocated time. These findings may be explained by the
inherent nature of the parameters, they may require additional treatment duration for the eects to be
apparent. Another possibility is the patients’ demographics, as these are palliative oncology patients
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 10 of 16
with high rates of advanced metastatic disease. These results can assist oncologists to facilitate patients’
expectations regarding the short-term eects of MC treatment.
Additionally, patients reported a mostly non-serious adverse eects profile. Our findings are in
line with previous results concluding that cannabinoid treatment for cancer-related pain is safe [
47
].
A previous study of recreational cannabis users demonstrated that THC is a major contributor to
the psychoactive eects of cannabis, with dose-dependent properties [
48
], whereas CBD is generally
described in psychiatric clinical studies as safe or as the phytocannabinoid that attenuates THCs’
psychoactive eects [
49
]. Moreover, the American Pain Society (APS) guidelines prefer to direct patients
to low-THC and high-CBD content MC cultivars due to THC-related AEs [
50
]. In our study, we found
no significant dierences between MC treatment regimens in MC-related AEs. Thus, the dominance of
THC/CBD phytocannabinoids within the MC treatments, at least for short-term treatment of palliative
cancer patients, does not play a clinical role in the safety profile of MC.
Currently, oncologists in Israel are required to prescribe MC treatment deciding on the
administration route and on THC:CBD ratio of products. We found that most of the prescriptions for
palliative oncology patients were for type I cultivars, which might be explained by previous clinical
trials demonstrating that cultivars with higher THC content provide a better therapeutic response for
pain reduction [
51
]. In the current study we found that except for sleep duration, type III treatments
were as good as type I treatments. In fact, for most assessed parameters, there was no superiority
of any specific MC treatment. Additionally, a trend of significance was found for both type I and
type III treatments compared to type II treatments for cancer-related physical symptoms reduction,
with higher clinical response rate for type III treatments. Hence, we can assume, based on our results,
that for amelioration of physical cancer symptoms, and for most cancer-related parameters (other than
sleep duration extension), there is no added therapeutic value for type I treatments and physicians
can prescribe type III cultivars. Additionally, Portenoy et al., (2012) showed that lower THC and
CBD concentrations of Nabiximoles were associated with higher pain reduction ecacy in cancer
patients [
29
]. Hence, the higher response rate for physical cancer burden by type III MC may be
attributed to its low THC concentrations, rather than for its high CBD concentrations. Nevertheless,
the THC:CBD ratio is not a good enough predictor for treatment response and other MC components
(e.g., concentration of other phytocannabinoids or terpenoids) should be assessed and matched for
some cancer symptoms. Hence, keeping in mind that we found no superior beneficial eects for type
I MC treatments other than for sleep duration and due to the abuse potential of THC [
52
], type III
MC treatments may be preferred for palliative oncology patients. Notably, previous clinical trials
that compared cannabis-based medications, such as THC, CBD and equal THC:CBD products for
chronic non-cancer pain patients, demonstrated superiority for equal THC:CBD products [
53
,
54
].
As whole-plant medical cannabis treatment is more complex than just its THC/CBD concentrations,
with more than 500 components, of which over 100 are phytocannabinoids [
20
], the comparison to the
relative inferiority of type II treatments in our study cannot be assessed.
This study has few limitations. First, no control or placebo groups were assigned. Hence, prudent
interpretation of the results is needed. Second, self-report bias may have occurred. To diminish this
bias, only validated questionnaires were utilized and patient responses were kept anonymous from
their physician. Third, since we investigated palliative cancer patients, with a short life expectancy
prognosis, a relatively short duration of follow-up was conducted. Future studies should attempt to
extend the follow-up period. Fourth, the heterogeneity of our sample prevents us from making any
generalization of our findings to a specific cancer etiology. Fifth, survival bias may have occurred,
since patients that discontinued MC treatment, due to ineectiveness or AEs and patients that passed
away could not contribute their follow-up status. Fifth, selection bias might have also occurred, since
extremely advanced patients might have not been included due to the study design. Lastly, we suggest
repeating this study in a placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial, using standardized cannabis
products with known phytocannabinoid and terpenoid composition.
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 11 of 16
4. Materials and Methods
4.1. Study Design
This is an intermittent subgroup study of an ongoing, multi-center, prospective study that is
being conducted since January 2019, and was analyzed at September 2020. The institutional Ethics
Committees of the Haemek Medical Center, Israel (#0137–18-EMC) and of the Galil Medical Center,
Israel (#0010–19-NHR) approved the study. This was a pure observational study with no interventional
component whatsoever, so registration at the Clinical Trials Register was not required. Importantly,
no recognizable information on participating patients is published in this article.
Hebrew speaking patients aged
18 years licensed for the first time for MC for treating metastatic
cancer pain and for chemotherapy-related nausea, vomiting and/or pain, were eligible for participation
in the study. After explaining the study procedures, participating oncologists who regularly issue MC
licenses on their own clinical discretion obtained written informed consents from eligible patients.
Copies of the consent forms along with the patients’ cancer diagnoses, cancer treatment and contact
information were sent to the study coordination center. To avoid any possible influence of collected
data on physicians’ decisions regarding clinical management of their patients, prescribing physicians
had no access to data collected on individual patients.
Patients were instructed to complete the study questionnaires at baseline, before MC treatment
initiation (T
0
; within few days from MC prescription), and at one (T
1
), three- and six-months following
treatment initiation. In this subgroup analysis, we selected to present only the short-term (T
1
) eects of
MC treatment. The baseline questionnaire consisted of 174 questions at baseline and a variable number
of about 220 follow-up questions, which were presented in a dynamic format customized to individual
responses where responses on a particular question determined the subsequent questions asked.
In order to further reduce study burden, patients were also given the choice to skip questions. Hence,
each patient completed a unique set of questions and each question received a dierent number of
responses. Data was collected online by the secured survey technology Qualtrics
®
(Provo, Utah, version
12018) [
55
]. Whenever patients had diculties with the use of the web platform, the questionnaires
could be completed by phone, with the assistance of the study coordinator. No financial compensation
was oered to participating patients. The STROBE statement checklist for cohort studies is presented
in the Supplementary Materials.
4.2. Study Questionnaires
Physician reported information included cancer diagnosis, classification of malignant tumors
(TNM), cancer treatment protocol and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance
Status score. Patient reported information included demographics, analgesics consumption,
MC treatment characteristics as well as Hebrew validated oncology-related questionnaires, including
(1) the study’s primary outcome measure of “average weekly pain intensity” on a 0–10 numerical pain
scale (NPS) and the weekly average worst and least pain intensities; (2) Memorial Symptom Assessment
Scale (MSAS) [
56
]; (3) The short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ) [
57
]; (4) Pain Disability
Index (PDI) [
58
]; (5) Quality of life—EuroQol (EQ5) [
59
]; (6) Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) [
60
];
(7) Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) [
61
]; (8) Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) [
62
]; and (9) General
Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) [
63
]. Using a predetermined list [
14
], patients were requested to report
adverse eects (AEs) at each follow-up time-point that they could attribute directly to MC treatment.
AEs were later classified as serious or non-serious, according to the FDA definition [64].
4.3. Phytocannabinoids Dose Assessment
Since the Israeli MCU reform [
65
], MC cultivators in Israel are required to accurately indicate the
THC and CBD concentrations in their products [
33
]. We calculated the monthly doses of THC and
CBD only for patients that reported fully on their MC treatment regimen, according to the products
that patients reported to consume, alongside with their total and product specific monthly doses.
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 12 of 16
For example, if a patient reported on consuming 10 g of THC10/CBD10 product and another 10 g
of THC20/CBD4 product, the patient calculated amount of monthly consumption is 6000 mg and
2800 mg of THC and CBD, respectively. Notably, MC cultivators in Israel are not required to report on
terpenoids concentrations in their MC products.
4.4. Statistical Analysis
R software (V.1.1.463) with atable [
66
], ggstatsplot [
67
] and tidyverse [
68
] packages were used to
analyze dierences between three MC treatments: Type I (patients consuming THC-dominant cultivars
only), type III (patients consuming CBD-dominant cultivars only; Type III) and type II (patients
consuming either hybrid cultivars with similar THC:CBD ratio; Type II, or patients consuming a
combination of THC-dominant and CBD-dominant cultivars in the same month) [
34
]. Chi square or
Kruskal–Wallis rank tests were conducted to establish similarity of demographic data between the
three treatments. The Shapiro-Wilk test of normality demonstrated non-normal distribution for all
measures. Thus, data is presented as median (IQR, Q1-Q3, i.e., quartiles 25 and 75). Dierences were
considered significant at the p<0.05 level. Incidences are presented as numbers and percentages of
patients. Notably, due to the exploratory nature of the study and many potential subgroup analyses,
no sample size was determined a priori.
4.5. Data Sharing
All data requests should be submitted to the corresponding author for consideration. Access to
anonymized data may be granted following review of the request.
5. Conclusions
In conclusion, this prospective, short-term cohort of palliative cancer patients demonstrated
an overall mild improvement of most investigated parameters, regardless of its phytocannabinoid
dominance. This is the first study that investigated the variability between three dierent classes of
regulated and accurately labelled MC products, using precise doses of both phytocannabinoids, THC
and CBD. Keeping in mind our relatively small sample size, short-term follow-up and lack of control
and placebo groups, we could not elucidate any dierences in beneficial eects between MC treatments
for most outcomes, but we were able to demonstrate some dierential eects between them. Thus,
we can cautiously recommend type III treatments and not type I or type II treatments be prescribed
for oncology patients with a high burden of physical cancer symptoms. However, if the patient’s
main complaint is short sleep duration, type I treatments are preferred. Future studies should further
investigate the role of dierent MC treatments in order to better elucidate our understanding of MC
treatment complexities.
Supplementary Materials:
The following are available online at http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/13/12/435/s1,
Methods S1: STORBE checklist.
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, J.A., G.M.L., G.B.-S. and D.M.; Data curation, J.A., A.U., I.C., A.L.,
M.A.-A., G.B.-S., L.A., D.G., N.M., A.K., A.S. and O.H.; Formal analysis, J.A. and Y.V.; Funding acquisition, D.M.;
Investigation, J.A. and D.M.; Methodology, J.A., G.M.L., G.B.-S., Y.V. and D.M.; Project administration, G.M.L. and
D.M.; Resources, D.M.; Supervision, G.M.L. and D.M.; Validation, J.A. and Y.V.; Visualization, J.A., Y.V., S.P. and
D.M.; Writing—original draft, J.A.; Writing—review & editing, J.A., G.M.L., Y.V., Anton Uribayev, S.P., I.C., A.L.,
M.A.-A., G.B.-S., L.A., D.C., N.M., A.K., A.S., O.H. and D.M. All authors participated in data collection, discussed
the results and commented on the manuscript. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of
the manuscript.
Funding:
The study was funded by the Evelyn Gruss Lipper Charitable Foundation. The funder had no role in
the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in
the decision to publish the results.
Acknowledgments:
We would like to thank Ella Lutbak and Reut Peled in their administrative assistance in
the study.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Pharmaceuticals 2020,13, 435 13 of 16
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... Semi-structured interviews with medical specialist would be helpful in assessing their current beliefs. This is especially important in light of the great discordance between patient-perceived effects of cannabinoids and those effects retrieved from clinical trials, as also seen in the current study (Aviram et al. 2020;Good et al. 2019;Hardy et al. 2020). ...
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Purpose Despite the inconclusiveness regarding health effects of cannabinoids among cancer patients, studies from non-European countries suggest that the medical-intended consumption of such products by this patient group is significant. The current study analyses cannabinoid usage among oncology patients receiving systemic treatment in the Netherlands. Methods The current study included adult patients receiving intravenous systemic therapy at Maastricht Comprehensive Cancer Centre, for a solid malignancy. Participants were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire including questions on demographic variables, clinical variables and cannabinoid consumption. Results A total of 153 patients with solid cancer were included in this study. Almost 25% reported usage of cannabinoids for medical purposes, with 15% of the patients currently using the substance. Additionally, 18% of non-users considered future medical usage. In 48% of the cases, consumption was reported by the oncologist. The proposed anti-cancer effect was reported by 46% of the users as motivation for consumption. Current users were mainly palliative patients and 54% of the users were undergoing immunotherapy. Intention of treatment and type of therapy were predictive factors for consumption. Cannabinoid-oil was the most frequently used way of consumption. Conclusion This study underlines the high number of cannabinoid users among oncology patients in the Netherlands in presumed absence of clinical guidance. It highlights the essence of a pro-active role of the clinician, assessing cannabinoid usage and educating the patients on the most recent evidence regarding its potential benefits and risks. Further studies on clinical decision making and efficacy of cannabinoids are recommended, to improve clinical guidance.
... In a crossover study by Grimison et al. [31] comparing a balanced product to placebo, statistically significant improvement in refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting was found. Contrary to our findings, Aviram et al. [32] reported that THC-and CBD-dominant products significantly improved Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale physical index scores in patients with cancer, after 1 month of Fig. 4 ESAS-r scores: change from baseline, by sex and THC:CBD ratio. Mixed model ANCOVA, mean ± SEM. ...
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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.
... An independent gene at locus C codes for CBCA synthase that produces CBCA from CBGA (Hand et al., 2016). Studies showed that type I chemovar dominates the markets, but often it is not as beneficial as the other chemovars in achieving the desired symptom relief (Lewis et al., 2018;Aviram et al., 2020a;Aviram et al., 2021b). Moreover, the minor phytocannabinoid are not randomly distributed between the different chemovar types. ...
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Medical Cannabis and its major cannabinoids (−)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are gaining momentum for various medical purposes as their therapeutic qualities are becoming better established. However, studies regarding their efficacy are oftentimes inconclusive. This is chiefly because Cannabis is a versatile plant rather than a single drug and its effects do not depend only on the amount of THC and CBD. Hundreds of Cannabis cultivars and hybrids exist worldwide, each with a unique and distinct chemical profile. Most studies focus on THC and CBD, but these are just two of over 140 phytocannabinoids found in the plant in addition to a milieu of terpenoids, flavonoids and other compounds with potential therapeutic activities. Different plants contain a very different array of these metabolites in varying relative ratios, and it is the interplay between these molecules from the plant and the endocannabinoid system in the body that determines the ultimate therapeutic response and associated adverse effects. Here, we discuss how phytocannabinoid profiles differ between plants depending on the chemovar types, review the major factors that affect secondary metabolite accumulation in the plant including the genotype, growth conditions, processing, storage and the delivery route; and highlight how these factors make Cannabis treatment highly complex.
... As a practice, we acknowledged that research on the potential benefits and harms of cannabis in seriously ill populations is in its infancy [4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] ; however, we believed that there was substantial evidence supporting the use of cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, nausea, and anorexia to warrant open conversations about our patients' current or intended use of cannabis. 13,14 We felt it was incumbent on our team to provide guidance and monitoring on our patients' cannabis use to mitigate potential harms. ...
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Introduction: Our academic ambulatory palliative care program has counseled, monitored, and certified patients for cannabis as part of routine palliative care practice for six years. Objective: We describe the population certified for cannabis and policies, procedures, and medicolegal challenges in our palliative care clinic. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of patients, qualifying diagnoses for cannabis certification, reasons for referral, and number of annual certifications. Results: Between 2015 and 2021, we certified 1711 patients for cannabis. The most common indications were cancer (64%), pain (24%), and neuropathy (9%). Other three months in 2021, 28% of new referrals to our practice were certified for cannabis and 15% of patients were referred explicitly for cannabis certification. Conclusion: Despite legal and practical challenges to implementing a medical cannabis program, our palliative care program has fully integrated cannabis as part of our standard outpatient clinical practice.
... In a study assessing comparative effectiveness of THC dominant (n = 52), CBD dominant (n = 19), and mixed (n = 33) in 108 cancer patients, over one month, in general there were no differences between the three treatments in pain intensity (in all three groups there was an improvement from baseline) and no difference between groups in most of the secondary outcome variables measured (only in sleep duration was the THC-dominant treatment significantly superior than the CBD-dominant treatment). There were no differences in the safety profiles between groups [189]. ...
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The plant Cannabis sativa has been in use medicinally for several thousand years. It has over 540 metabolites thought to be responsible for its therapeutic effects. Two of the key phytocannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Unlike THC, CBD does not have potentially intoxicating effects. Preclinical and clinical research indicates that CBD has a wide range of therapeutic effects, and many of them are relevant to the management of cancer. In this article, we explore some of the potential mechanisms of action of CBD in cancer, and evidence of its efficacy in the integrative management of cancer including the side effects associated with its treatment, demonstrating its potential for integration with orthodox cancer care.
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Context : Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life (QoL) in patients with incurable illness. Medicinal cannabis (MC) has been used in the palliative care setting to address multiple symptoms in patients. Objectives : To evaluate the full scope of available literature investigating the effects and potential harms of MC on symptom management and QoL in palliative care. Methods : PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Library and clinicaltrials.gov were searched for eligible articles, published between 1960 and September 09, 2021. Quality of the evidence was assessed in accordance with Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations. Risk of bias was assessed using the RoB 2 tool for randomised controlled trials and the Risk of Bias in Non-randomized Studies—of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool for non-randomized trials. Results : Fifty-two studies (20 randomised; 32 non-randomised) with 4786 participants diagnosed with cancer (n=4491), dementia (n=43), AIDS (n=235), spasticity (n=16), NORSE syndrome (n=1) were included. The quality of evidence was ‘very low’ or ‘low’ for all studies, and low for only two RCTs. Positive treatment effects (statistical significance with P<0.05) were seen for some MC products in pain, nausea and vomiting, appetite, sleep, fatigue, chemosensory perception and paraneoplastic night sweats in patients with cancer, appetite and agitation in patients with dementia and appetite, nausea and vomiting in patients with AIDS. Meta-analysis was unable to be performed due to the wide range of cannabis products used and the heterogeneity of the study outcomes. Conclusion : While positive treatment effects have been reported for some MC products in the palliative care setting, further high quality evidence is needed to support recommendations for its use in clinical practice.
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The therapeutic use of medical Cannabis is growing, and so is the need for standardized and therapeutically stable Cannabis products for patients. The therapeutic effects of Cannabis largely depend on the content of its pharmacologically active secondary metabolites and their interactions, mainly terpenoids and phytocannabinoids. Once harvested and during storage, these natural compounds may decarboxylate, oxidize, isomerize, react photochemically, evaporate and more. Despite its widespread and increasing use, however, data on the stability of most of the plant's terpenoids and phytocannabinoids during storage is scarce. In this study, we therefore aimed to determine postharvest optimal storage conditions for preserving the composition of naturally biosynthesized secondary metabolites in Cannabis inflorescences and Cannabis extracts. To this end, Cannabis inflorescences (whole versus ground samples) and Cannabis extracts (dissolved in different solvents) from (-)-9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol-or cannabidiol-rich chemovars, were stored in the dark at various temperatures (25, 4, −30 and −80 • C), and their phytocannabinoid and terpenoid profiles were analyzed over the course of 1 year. We found that in both Cannabis inflorescences and extracts, a storage temperature of 25 • C led to the largest changes in the concentrations of the natural phytocannabinoids over time, making this the most unfavorable temperature compared with all others examined here. Olive oil was found to be the best vehicle for preserving the natural phytocannabinoid composition of the extracts. Terpenoid concentrations were found to decrease rapidly under all storage conditions, but temperatures lower than −20 • C and grinding of the inflorescences were the least favorable conditions. Overall, our conclusions point that storage of whole inflorescences and extracts dissolved in olive oil, at 4 • C, were the optimal postharvest conditions for Cannabis.
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Background: Despite improvements in medical care, patients with advanced cancer still experience substantial symptom distress. There is increasing interest in the use of medicinal cannabinoids, but there is little high quality evidence to guide clinicians. This study aims to define the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in the management of symptom burden in patients with advanced cancer undergoing standard palliative care. Methods and design: This study is a multicentre, randomised, placebo controlled, two arm, parallel trial of escalating doses of oral CBD. It will compare efficacy and safety outcomes of a titrated dose of CBD (100 mg/mL formulation, dose range 50 mg to 600 mg per day) against placebo. There is a 2-week patient determined titration phase, using escalating doses of CBD or placebo to reach a dose that achieves symptom relief with tolerable side effects. This is then followed by a further 2-week assessment period on the stable dose determined in collaboration with clinicians. Discussion: A major strength of this study is that it will target symptom burden as a whole, rather than just individual symptoms, in an attempt to describe the general improvement in wellbeing previously reported by some patients in open label, non controlled trials of medicinal cannabis. Randomisation with placebo is essential because of the well-documented over reporting of benefit in uncontrolled trials and high placebo response rates in cancer pain trials. This will be the first placebo controlled clinical trial to evaluate rigorously the efficacy, safety and acceptability of CBD for symptom relief in advanced cancer patients. This study will provide the medical community with evidence to present to patients wishing to access medicinal cannabis for their cancer related symptoms. Trial registration number: ALCTRN12618001220257 Registered 20/07/2018.
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Cannabis has the potential to modulate some of the most common and debilitating symptoms of cancer and its treatments, including nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and pain. However, the dearth of scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis in treating these symptoms in patients with cancer poses a challenge to clinicians in discussing this option with their patients. A review was performed using keywords related to cannabis and important symptoms of cancer and its treatments. Literature was qualitatively reviewed from preclinical models to clinical trials in the fields of cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and others, to prudently inform the use of cannabis in supportive and palliative care in cancer. There is a reasonable amount of evidence to consider cannabis for nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, and pain as a supplement to first-line treatments. There is promising evidence to treat chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, gastrointestinal distress, and sleep disorders, but the literature is thus far too limited to recommend cannabis for these symptoms. Scant, yet more controversial, evidence exists in regard to cannabis for cancer- and treatment-related cognitive impairment, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Adverse effects of cannabis are documented but tend to be mild. Cannabis has multifaceted potential bioactive benefits that appear to outweigh its risks in many situations. Further research is required to elucidate its mechanisms of action and efficacy and to optimize cannabis preparations and doses for specific populations affected by cancer.
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The Cannabis plant contains over 100 phytocannabinoids and hundreds of other components. The biological effects and interplay of these Cannabis compounds are not fully understood and yet influence the plant's therapeutic effects. Here we assessed the antitumor effects of whole Cannabis extracts, which contained significant amounts of differing phytocannabinoids, on different cancer lines from various tumor origins. We first utilized our novel electrospray ionization liquid chromatography mass spectrometry method to analyze the phytocannabinoid contents of 124 Cannabis extracts. We then monitored the effects of 12 chosen different Cannabis extracts on 12 cancer cell lines. Our results show that specific Cannabis extracts impaired the survival and proliferation of cancer cell lines as well as induced apoptosis. Our findings showed that pure (-)-Δ 9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ 9-THC) did not produce the same effects on these cell lines as the whole Cannabis extracts. Furthermore, Cannabis extracts with similar amounts of Δ 9-THC produced significantly different effects on the survival of specific cancer cells. In addition, we demonstrated that specific Cannabis extracts may selectively and differentially affect cancer cells and differing cancer cell lines from the same organ origin. We also found that cannabimimetic receptors were differentially expressed among various cancer cell lines and suggest that this receptor diversity may contribute to the heterogeneous effects produced by the differing Cannabis extracts on each cell line. Our overall findings indicate that the effect of a Cannabis extract on a specific cancer cell line relies on the extract's composition as well as on certain characteristics of the targeted cells.
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Introduction and Aims Since 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Health has been working towards increased regulation of its medical cannabis (MC) program by ensuring that MC licensing procedures adhere to the basic principles and practices of the medical profession. The aim of this study is to examine trends in MC licensing in Israel during this period of increasing MC regulation. Design and Methods Publicly available data on MC licences, collected by the Ministry of Health, were used to examine trends between 2013 and 2018. The number of MC licences, new MC licence requests and rate of MC licence requests accepted were plotted over time. Gender and age distributions and the medical indicators for which MC licences were approved were also examined. Results Absolute numbers of MC licences and MC licence requests increased during the study period while no parallel increase in the rate at which new MC licences were granted was observed. MC licences for post‐traumatic stress disorder increased substantially during the study period. The majority of MC patients in Israel are male, over the age of 40, and used MC for chronic pain. Conclusions The observed increase in MC licences is likely driven by an increase in patient demand. This study suggests that social forces (e.g. positive media reporting and public attitudes towards MC), beyond MC regulation, are influencing trends in MC licensing in Israel. Studies that examine the skewed gender distribution of MC licences, and the efficacy of MC for post‐traumatic stress disorder, are urgently needed.
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e24125 Background: Despite lack of clinical trials reporting on beneficial effects of the cannabis plant for cancer-associated symptoms, its use is increasing worldwide. Approximately 10,000 Israeli cancer patients receive permits for the use of medical cannabis, making cannabis one of the most commonly prescribed oncology treatments in Israel and making the Israeli oncologists highly experienced with its use. The experience gained by the Israeli oncologists is therefore highly valuable. Methods: We conducted a web-based survey among all 238 Israeli oncologists, addressing personal experience; knowledge and attitudes toward the use of cannabis in oncology. Results: Response rate was 54% (n = 126), with the vast majority (87%) regularly prescribing cannabis to their patients. Anorexia, pain and nausea were the most common indications for cannabis use. While 90% of responders stated lack of sufficient knowledge regarding cannabis, its use was perceived as effective and safe. Interestingly, while most oncologists stated that opioids should be used as a first line treatment for cancer pain, most would prefer cannabis for pain relief if needed by a close relative. Oncologists who support cannabis legalization were more likely to prescribe it. Conclusions: Our findings indicate extensive use and perception of medical cannabis despite lack of knowledge, and support about efficacy and indicate a unique role for moral attitudes affecting clinical decisions. These data call for the implementation of an educational program and practical guidelines enabling more consistent and rational approach toward cannabis role in oncology.
Article
e24178 Background: Medicinal cannabis is currently approved for symptom control in cancer patients. There is limited evidence to suggest cannabis is efficacious in the treatment of cancer. In this study we aim to characterise the extent of cannabis use in patients receiving anti-cancer therapies and what impact they think cannabis use has on their cancer. Methods: An anonymous survey was distributed to patients with cancer attending the Beaumont Hospital Oncology Day Unit for anti-cancer therapy over a period of 4 weeks. Results: 175 patients completed the survey. 166 (95%) of patients said they would be comfortable talking to their oncologist about cannabis use. 161 (92%) felt their oncologist should prescribe cannabis as part of their cancer treatment. 17% thought cannabis would cure their cancer. 38% thought cannabis would slow the growth of their cancer and 33% thought cannabis would treat cancer related symptoms. 42 (24%) of all patients had tried some form of cannabis at least once in their life. 26 (15%) were actively taking CBD (Cannabidiol) oil as part of their treatment independently of any healthcare professional guidance. More females (15) were taking CBD compared to males (11). A higher proportion of patients < 50 years (14) were taking CBD during their treatment. 30% of patients using CBD had breast cancer and 23% had a primary CNS malignancy. Of the patients taking CBD, 20 (77%) patients felt it would cure or slow cancer growth and 10 (38%) patients believed it would help with cancer related symptoms. Conclusions: Patients with cancer appear to have a positive attitude towards cannabis as part of their treatment despite limited evidence to support this. With the increasing availability of cannabis-based products globally, medical oncologists must now take into consideration patient’s attitude towards cannabis while treating their cancer. [Table: see text]
Article
12106 Background: Access to medical cannabis (MC) is a common request by patients and caregivers in supportive cancer care (SCC). However, healthcare professionals require more evidence on MC safety and effectiveness. Methods: The Cannabis Pilot Project (CPP) was implemented at the Cedars Cancer Centre of the McGill University Health Centre to evaluate MC as a complementary option for symptom control in SCC. Referral to the CPP was reserved for patients who were receiving SCC but had not obtained adequate symptom relief. An interdisciplinary team (physician, nurse and research coordinator) was established to systematically assess patients, prescribe and monitor MC treatments and record data on their safety and effectiveness. Patients were enrolled in the CPP between February 2018 and December 2019 and reassessed at intervals of one to six months. Results: Ninety-six cancer patients (mean age 60.0y (±13.9); 41 (42.7%) males) had at least one follow-up (FUP) and were included in the study. The main cancer types were breast (19.8%), lung (9.4%) and colorectal (9.4%). Adverse events (top three: drowsiness, low energy and nausea) were reported in 28% of patients, with 9% having to stop MC. Mean Brief Pain Inventory scores significantly improved between baseline, FUP-2 and FUP-3 for worst pain (5.4± SEM 0.3 vs 4.3±0.3 and 3.7±0.4) and average pain severity (4.2±0.2 vs 3.2±0.3 and 3.2±0.4). Anorexia improved (3.4±0.3 vs 2.2±0.4 and 1.7±0.4), as measured via the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r). ESAS-r wellbeing improved significantly between baseline and FUP-1 (4.4±0.2 vs 3.7±0.2). Between baseline and each FUP, approximately a third of patients dropped their use of concurrent medications (including analgesics, antidepressants and anxiolytics), as measured by the Medication Quantification Scale. Conclusions: The CPP data support the safety and effectiveness of MC as a complementary option for improving pain control, appetite and quality of life in SCC.
Article
Background: The opioid epidemic has spurred investigations for nonopioid options, yet limited research persists on medical marijuana's (MMJ) efficacy in managing cancer-related symptoms. Objective: We sought to characterize MMJ's role on symptomatic relief and opioid consumption in the oncologic population. Design: Retrospective chart review of MMJ-certified oncology patients was performed. Divided patients into MMJ use [MMJ(+)] versus no use [MMJ(-)], and Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS)-reported pain cohorts: "mild-moderate" versus "severe." Measurements: Medical records were reviewed for ESAS, to measure physical and emotional symptoms, and opiate consumption, converted into morphine milligram equivalents (MME). Minimal clinically important differences were determined. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests determined statistical significance between MMJ-certification and most recent palliative care visit. Results: Identified 232 patients [95/232 MMJ(-); 137/232 MMJ(+)]. Pain, physical and total ESAS significantly improved for total MMJ(-) and MMJ(+); however, only MMJ(+) significantly improved emotional ESAS. MMJ(-) opioid consumption increased by 23% (97.5-120 mg/day MME, p = 0.004), while it remained constant (45-45 mg/day MME, p = 0.522) in MMJ(+). Physical and total ESAS improved in mild-moderate-MMJ(-) and MMJ(+). Pain and emotional symptoms worsened in MMJ(-); while MMJ(+)'s pain remained unchanged and emotional symptoms improved. MMJ(-) opioid consumption increased by 29% (90-126 mg/day MME, p = 0.012); while MMJ(+)'s decreased by 33% (45-30 mg/day MME, p = 0.935). Pain, physical, emotional, and total ESAS scores improved in severe-MMJ(-) and MMJ(+); opioid consumption reduced by 22% in MMJ(-) (135-106 mg/day MME, p = 0.124) and 33% in MMJ(+) (90-60 mg/day MME, p = 0.421). Conclusions: MMJ(+) improved oncology patients' ESAS scores despite opioid dose reductions and should be considered a viable adjuvant therapy for palliative management.