CBD oil for cancer treatment is becoming a popular idea and it is supposed to be this new wonderful answer to a great variety of health issues from pain to epileptic seizures. CBD is the non-psychoactive element of cannabis and it is not exactly new to the medicine world. It has already been established for quite some time that this chemical compound can help ease different symptoms of many illnesses, particularly epilepsy.
The popularity of CBD as a medicinal wonder came to greater light after the story of little Charlotte was publicized. In 2011 when Charlotte Figi was 5 years old, she was diagnosed with a rare type of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome. She was having an average of 300 grand mal seizures every week. Her doctors have told her family there was nothing more they could do for Charlotte whose symptoms began when she was just three months old. Though prepared for the worst, the Figi’s had not completely given up.
Having exhausted every treatment option for their child, they turned to medical marijuana. They bought a small amount of marijuana strain that has low THC but high CBD content and had a friend extract the cannabidiol and started Charlotte on a small dose. It worked! When their supply ran out, the Figis reached out to the Stanley brothers, dubbed the Robin Hoods of marijuana, and they developed a strain now known as Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte Figi’s story has brought CBD into the forefront of the cannabis scene, giving hope to the thousands of children affected by epilepsy.
Since then, many anecdotal evidences have been put forth by a lot of people who have used CBD oil products, attesting to the effectiveness of CBD in easing not only epilepsy-related symptoms but also anxiety, chronic pain, and muscle spasms. There is also a lot of talks especially on the Internet about the promise of CBD oil as a cancer treatment.
Is cannabidiol something that desperate cancer patients can put their hope to, or is it just hype?
What studies say
A recent UK study found that mice with pancreatic cancer treated with a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) and chemotherapy survived almost three times longer than mice that received only chemotherapy treatment.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. Most affected people are in developed countries. According to one of the study authors, Dr. M. Falasca, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients is very low. This is because treatment options are few and only palliative care treatments are available. “The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years. Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than seven percent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed.“
It has long been established that CBD is able to improve the side effects of chemotherapy such as vomiting and nausea. But this particular study has explored the possibility of using CBD in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment. Other previous studies conducted on animals have also seen the possible anti-cancer properties of cannabidiol.
The findings of Dr. Falasca and his co-authors further reiterate the necessity of additional research involving cannabis compounds, particularly CBD for cancer treatment. In the UK where the study was conducted, cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics, therefore, according to Dr. Falasca, they can go ahead and test this compound in human clinical trials.
CBD Oil Use in the United States
In the United States, CBD is a Schedule I compound. This may change in the near future following the FDA’s approval of the cannabidiol-derived epilepsy drug Epidiolex. However, at this time, CBD is still illegal according to federal law. This does not faze many people though who find comfort in cannabidiol. Also, the majority of the states in the US have legalized CBD for medicinal use. Multiple studies have also shown CBD to be effective in easing many health problems from migraine to anxiety to seizures.
The following are the main reasons people use CBD oil products:
In a double-blind study conducted at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, involving patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD), researchers found that “CBD reduces anxiety in SAD and that this is related to its effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas.” Researchers performed brain scans on the participants that consumed CBD which showed cerebral blood flow patterns which were consistent with an anti-anxiety effect, proving that cannabidiol did reduce the subjects’ anxiety.
A web-based survey in 2017 hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society found that 66% of people with multiple sclerosis use cannabis (medical marijuana) to manage their symptoms. Cannabis with at least 1:1 CBD to THC ratio is most effective in reducing muscle spasticity and pain.
A study conducted in 2016 suggested that the decrease in endocannabinoids in the body may be the root cause of chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia. And since CBD is known to boost the function of ECS – including its ability to produce endocannabinoids – using CBD oils can help with the management of FMS symptoms.
The Journal of Experimental Medicine published a study that found that CBD significantly lowered chronic pain and inflammation in some mice and rats. The study suggested that the non-psychoactive CBD could be key to a new and natural way to treat chronic pain.
Cannabis has anticonvulsant properties and can reduce the frequency as well as the intensity of seizures in some patients. One of the reasons marijuana is an effective epilepsy treatment is the compound CBD.
A study conducted in early 2017 involving 120 children and teenagers with Dravet Syndrome found that “cannabidiol is an effective anti-seizure drug for this disorder and this age group.”
The group was divided in half – one group received cannabidiol and the other group a placebo.
Over a period of 14 weeks, the CBD group saw a significant decrease in the number of seizures – from 12.4 to just 5.9 seizures a month. While the placebo group saw very little change – from 14.9 to 14.1 seizures a month.
The FDA has not approved cannabis or any of its components (cannabinoids) as a treatment for cancer.
However, there are two cannabinoids approved by the FDA for use in treating cancer-related symptoms as well as some of the side effects of cancer therapy. These two cannabinoids are dronabinol and nabilone and are typically prescribed to patients for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.
Many oncologists consider smoked medical marijuana to be somewhat more effective than the FDA approved cannabinoids though, and they are just as safe. This is why, although doctors cannot prescribe cannabis as a treatment, they recommend the use of CBD oil for cancer symptom treatment, especially for emesis (vomiting) control.
Cannabidiol may not just be effective in controlling cancer-related symptoms as evidenced by some pre-clinical studies. CBD has shown promising anti-tumor activity.
According to a report for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for cancer patients published in Cancer.gov,
- A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.
- A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective.
Despite the unofficial recognition of oncologists and the results of various preclinical studies, a lot more research is required to establish CBD for cancer as an accepted treatment for the said disease, and not just the symptoms. Due to legality concerns, studies that look into the potential of CBD Oil for cancer treatment in the United States are few and limited. But, Congress is set to legalize hemp, which is one of the primary sources of CBD. Perhaps, once this cannabis plant is finally legalized, then more thorough and wide-ranging research can be done on CBD oil for cancer.