There’s conclusive evidence for the use of cannabis and its products, such as cannabis oil and CBD oil, for other therapeutic purposes. Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis. Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer. CBD shows promise for fighting aggressive brain cancer The researchers believe that CBD’s anti-cancer actions target mitochondria — the cell’s energy producing structures — by causing the
There’s now conclusive evidence for the use of cannabis-based products for managing the side-effects of a brain tumour.
Cannabis, cannabinoids and cannabis derivatives
Cannabis is the dried preparation, or resinous extract, of the flowers or leaves of the cannabis plant, a member of the hemp family.
The parts of cannabis that are considered important for medical reasons are called cannabinoids. This is the name for the complex chemicals found in cannabis that are responsible for the effect cannabis has on the body. Two cannabinoids are of particular interest:
- THC – delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (responsible for the psycho-active and addictive effects of cannabis)
- CBD – cannabidiol
Cannabis derivatives is a general term for all products that are produced using different parts of the cannabis plant, including:
- cannabis-based medicines that certain healthcare professionals can prescribe (for example, Sativex and Nabilone)
- cannabis products that don’t contain THC, which can be sold legally in the UK as food supplements (for example CBD oil or hemp oil)
- cannabis products that do contain THC, which are currently illegal in the UK (for example, street cannabis or cannabis oil).
It’s important that you understand the difference between cannabis products that contain CBD and cannabis products that don’t contain THC, as they can have different effects and are legally treated differently.
Our community share their experiences with cannabis-based products
“I am having chemotherapy and using CBD oil to help with the side-effects of that.”
“I used CBD oil to relax and try to reduce my anxiety levels.”
“I hoped CBD oil would reduce the size of my tumour, however it did grow. I use CBD oil to help with pain, and it makes me calmer and more relaxed.”
“I have never used cannabis products because my doctor wasn’t sure how it would interact with my other medications.”
“I did not use cannabis medicines or products because I didn’t think they would improve or enhance the medication I was receiving.”
“I believe it can help with nausea, but talk to your doctor first because cannabis can interact with other medications.”
These experiences from members of the brain tumour community are not intended as medical advice. Everyone is different and we encourage you to make decisions about using cannabis-products following discussion with your medical team.
Join the conversation in our Online Support Communities for more tips about coping with a brain tumour diagnosis from people who truly understand what you’re going through.
Are cannabis-based products legal in the UK?
Cannabis is an illegal drug in many countries, including the UK, where it is classified as a class B drug. This means it is illegal to posses, supply or produce cannabis in the UK.
Cannabis-based products containing THC (for example, cannabis oil or medical cannabis) are also illegal in the UK, unless you have a valid prescription.
Possession of a class B drug is punishable in the UK with up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. Supply and production of a class B drug is punishable with up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
CBD and hemp oils
Cannabis-based products that don’t contain THC (for example, hemp oil or CBD oil) are currently legal in the UK – as long as it has been produced from an EU-approved strain of hemp and as long as it is marketed as a food supplement without any medicinal claims. You can buy these products in many high street health food shops.
Buying cannabis-based products that aren’t from an EU-approved strain of hemp often means you cannot be sure the product is legal in the UK.
What is the evidence for cannabis-based products in the treatment of brain tumours?
Treating brain tumours
Currently, the evidence that cannabis-based products can treat brain tumours themselves is limited.
Preliminary studies from the lab suggest that cannabinoid chemicals THC and CBD can stop glioblastoma (GBM) cells from growing, causing them to die and disrupting the blood supply to the tumour cells.
And, earlier this year, an early-stage trial led by Professor Susan Short suggested that adding a specific blend of these chemicals – in the form of a drug called Sativex – to chemotherapy could potentially help treat recurrent GBMs more effectively.
There’s now conclusive evidence for the use of cannabis and its products, such as cannabis oil and CBD oil, for other therapeutic purposes, i.e. pain relief and treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
As such, the cannabis-based drug, Nabilone, has a medical licence and can be legally prescribed for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis medicines have been used to help with nausea, however these are different to the products that have been tested for use to treat cancers.
Professor Susan Short, Consultant in Clinical Oncology
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Is it safe to use cannabis-based products?
Any supplements, alternative or complementary treatments that you or your loved one wish to use could interact with other medications, such as anti-epileptic medicines, steroids or chemotherapy. You should always discuss this with your medical team before deciding to use cannabis-based products.
It is important to be aware that you cannot be sure of the concentrations and ratios of THC and CBD in grown or street cannabis, and therefore cannot guarantee how safe it is. The same is true of other cannabis-products that aren’t prescribed by your healthcare team or produced from an EU-approved strain of hemp.
How safe a cannabis product is will depend on the product itself and the other medications you are taking. You should speak to your medical team for advice before starting cannabis products.
Professor Susan Short, Consultant in Clinical Oncology
Side effects of using cannabis-based medications
Like all medications, cannabis-based medicines have side-effects. These will differ depending on the product you’re using, as well as your individual circumstances.
Your consultant or medical team will be able to talk to you about possible side-effects as well as how to manage any side-effects you’re experiencing.
The side-effects may vary depending on the product. The common side-effects of Sativex (a cannabis-based medicine) are sickness, tiredness, dizziness and headaches.
Professor Susan Short, Consultant in Clinical Oncology
How can I get cannabis-based products?
Only specialist doctors who are listed in the General Medical Council’s (GMC) specialist register will be able to prescribe cannabis-based products. They will only be prescribed when the specialist considers that the patient will benefit and when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.
- Medicinal cannabis, therefore, will be prescribed on a case-by-case basis
- Patients will NOT be able to get cannabis-based products from their GP
- If you feel you might benefit from these products, speak to your consultant or healthcare team
- Administration by smoking remains prohibited.
If you’d like to know more, you could read our blog post on cannabis-based medicinal products or read our information about accessing unlicensed drugs.
CBD and hemp oils
CBD and hemp oils do not contain THC and can be purchased in many high street health food shops.
Cannabis-based medicines are only available through a medical prescription. Cannabis-based products are available without a prescription but many of these are of unknown composition and are not equivalent to medicinal products.
Professor Susan Short, Consultant in Clinical Oncology
Speaking to your medical team about cannabis
We recognise this can be a difficult conversation to start with your, or your loved one’s, medical team. If you are interested in understanding if cannabis-based medications may be suitable for you or your loved one, or if you are considering a non-prescription cannabis product like CBD oil, we recommend you speak with your medical team about this decision.
Cannabis-based medications (medical cannabis) are only likely to be prescribed to a small number of people, and only for specific reasons
Here are some tips to help you have this conversation:
- Explain why you are interested in cannabis-based medicines or products, and what you are hoping it could do for you or your loved one.
- Let your medical team know you want them to be involved in decisions about using cannabis-based medicines or products.
- Ask about research or clinical evidence for or against using cannabis-based medicines or products, and how this relates to your individual circumstances.
Remember, a medical professional’s concern is your health or the health of your loved one. This means they are likely to be open to discussing any medicines or complementary therapies that may be suitable.
Perhaps your medical team will say they don’t recommend any cannabis-based medicines or products for you. You can ask them why. There are often clinical and evidence-based reasons why cannabis-based medicines and products would not be suitable for you or your loved one. For example, because of interactions with other medications.
You may find the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society’s (UKMCCS) guide to medical cannabis helpful when talking to your medical team. It includes information about access, legality, safety and side-effects of medical cannabis.
If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
Cannabis, CBD oil and cancer
Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. It affects people differently. It can make you feel relaxed and chilled. But it can also make you:
- feel sick
- affect your memory
- make you feel lethargic
CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis.
- Cannabis has been used for centuries recreationally and as a medicine.
- It is illegal to possess or supply cannabis as it is a class B drug in the UK.
- Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer.
- There are anti sickness medicines that contain man-made substances of cannabis.
What are cannabis and cannabinoids?
Cannabis is a plant. It is known by many names including:
The plant produces a resin that contains several substances or chemicals. These are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids can have medicinal effects on the body.
The main cannabinoids are:
- Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
THC is a psychoactive substance that can create a ‘high’ feeling. It can affect how your brain works, changing your mood and how you feel.
CBD is a cannabinoid that may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychoactive ‘high’ effect of THC.
Different types of cannabis have differing amounts of these and other chemicals in them. This means they can have different effects on the body.
Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK. This means that it is illegal to have it, sell it or buy it.
CBD oil, cannabis oil and hemp oil
There are different types of oil made from parts of the cannabis plant. Some are sold legally in health food stores as a food supplement. Other types of oil are illegal.
CBD oil comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant and does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. It can be sold in the UK as a food supplement but not as a medicine. There is no evidence to support its use as a medicine.
Cannabis oil comes from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. Cannabis oil often contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.
Hemp oil comes from the seeds of a type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the main psychoactive ingredient THC. Hemp seed oil is used for various purposes including as a protein supplement for food, a wood varnish and an ingredient in soaps.
Why people with cancer use it
Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.
There has been a lot of interest into whether cannabinoids might be useful as a cancer treatment. The scientific research done so far has been laboratory research, with mixed results, so we do not know if cannabinoids can treat cancer in people.
Results have shown that different cannabinoids can:
- cause cell death
- block cell growth
- stop the development of blood vessels – needed for tumours to grow
- reduce inflammation
- reduce the ability of cancers to spread
Scientists also discovered that cannabinoids can:
- sometimes encourage cancer cells to grow
- cause damage to blood vessels
Cannabinoids have helped with sickness and pain in some people.
This means a cannabis based product used to relieve symptoms.
Some cannabis based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. The following medicines are sometimes prescribed to help relieve symptoms.
Nabilone is a drug developed from cannabis. It is licensed for treating severe sickness from chemotherapy that is not controlled by other anti sickness drugs. It is a capsule that you swallow whole.
Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine. It is licensed in the UK for people with Multiple Sclerosis muscle spasticity that hasn’t improved with other treatments. Sativex is a liquid that you spray into your mouth.
Researchers are looking into Sativex as a treatment for cancer related symptoms and for certain types of cancer.
How you have it
Cannabis products can be:
- ingested (eating or drinking)
- absorbed through the skin from a patch
- applied as a cream
- applied as a spray
CBD oil comes as a liquid or in capsules.
Prescription drugs such as Nabilone can cause side effects. This can include:
- increased heart rate
- blood pressure problems
- mood changes
- memory problems
Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.
There are also many cannabis based products available online without a prescription. The quality of these products can vary. It is impossible to know what substances they might contain. They could potentially be harmful to your health and may be illegal.
Research into cannabinoids and cancer
We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.
Clinical trials need to be done in large numbers where some patients have the drug and some don’t. Then you can compare how well the treatment works.
Many of the studies done so far have been small and in the laboratory. There have been a few studies involving people with cancer.
Sativex and temozolomide for a brain tumour (glioblastoma) that has come back
In 2021, scientists reported the final results of a phase 1 study to treat people with recurrent glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour that has come back). The study looked at Sativex in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.
Researchers found that adding Sativex caused side effects, which included, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and headache but patients found the side effects manageable.
They also observed that 83 out of 100 people (83%) were alive after one year using Sativex, compared to 44 out of 100 people (44%) taking the placebo.
However, this phase 1 study only involved 27 patients, which was too small to learn about any potential benefits of Sativex. The study wanted to find out if Sativex and temozolomide was safe to take by patients.
Researchers have now started a larger phase 2 trial called ARISTOCRAT, to find out if this treatment is effective and who might benefit from it. Speak to your specialist if you want to take part in a clinical trial.
Sativex and cancer pain
There are trials looking at whether Sativex can help with cancer pain that has not responded to other painkillers.
The results of one trial showed that Sativex did not improve pain levels. You can read the results of the trial on our clinical trials website.
Cancer and nausea and vomiting
A cannabis based medicine, Nabilone, is a treatment for nausea and vomiting.
A Cochrane review in 2015 looked at all the research available looking into cannabis-based medicine as a treatment for nausea and sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. It reported that many of the studies were too small. Or not well run to be able to say how well these medicines work. They say that they may be useful if all other medicines are not working.
A drug called dexanabinol which is a man-made form of a chemical similar to that found in cannabis has been trialled in a phase 1 trial. This is an early trial that tries to work out:
- whether the drug works in humans
- what the correct dose is
- what the side effects might be
The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.
Word of caution
Cannabis is a class B drug and illegal in the UK.
There are internet scams where people offer to sell cannabis preparations to people with cancer. There is no knowing what the ingredients are in these products and they could harm your health.
Some of these scammers trick cancer patients into buying ‘cannabis oil’ which they then never receive.
You could talk with your cancer specialist about the possibility of joining a clinical trial. Trials can give access to new drugs in a safe and monitored environment.
The science blog on our website has more information about cannabis and cancer.
CBD shows promise for fighting aggressive brain cancer
The researchers believe that CBD’s anti-cancer actions target mitochondria — the cell’s energy producing structures — by causing the mitochondria to dysfunction and release harmful reactive oxygen species. The mitochondria (teal color) in a canine cancer cell line are shown after 48 hours of treatment with a nonlethal dose of CBD isolate (40x objective lens). Credit: Chase Gross, Mando Ramirez, Jade Kurihara, Colorado State University
Findings from a new study examining human and canine brain cancer cells suggest that cannabidiol could be a useful therapy for a difficult-to-treat brain cancer. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive chemical compound derived from marijuana.
The study looked at glioblastoma, an often-deadly form of brain cancer that grows and spreads very quickly. Even with major advancements in treatment, survival rates for this cancer have not improved significantly.
“Further research and treatment options are urgently needed for patients afflicted by brain cancer,” said Chase Gross, a student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Master of Science program at Colorado State University. “Our work shows that CBD has the potential to provide an effective, synergistic glioblastoma therapy option and that it should continue to be vigorously studied.”
Mr. Gross was scheduled to present this research at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in San Diego this month. Though the meeting, to be held in conjunction with the 2020 Experimental Biology conference, was canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the research team’s abstract was published in this month’s issue of The FASEB Journal.
Mr. Gross and colleagues examined human and canine glioblastoma cells because the cancer shows striking similarities between the two species. They tested the effects of CBD isolate, which contains 100 percent CBD, and CBD extract, which contains small amounts of other natural occurring compounds such as cannabigerol and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
A bright field microscopy image (10x) illustrating the swollen intracellular vesicles observed after 48 hours of treatment with a lethal dose of CBD (10x objective lens). Swollen vesicles were a hallmark of CBD-induced cell death in all the cell lines studied. Credit: Chase Gross, Mando Ramirez, Colorado State University
“Our experiments showed that CBD slows cancer cell growth and is toxic to both canine and human glioblastoma cell lines,” said Mr. Gross. “Importantly, the differences in anti-cancer affects between CBD isolate and extract appear to be negligible.”
The new work revealed that the toxic effects of CBD are mediated through the cell’s natural pathway for apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death. The researchers also observed that CBD-induced cell death was characterized by large, swollen intracellular vesicles before the membrane begins to bulge and breakdown. This was true for all the cell lines studied.
The researchers believe that CBD’s anti-cancer actions target mitochondria—the cell’s energy producing structures—by causing the mitochondria to dysfunction and release harmful reactive oxygen species. Their experiments showed that cells treated with CBD exhibited significant decreases in mitochondrial activity.
“CBD has been zealously studied in cells for its anticancer properties over the last decade,” said Mr. Gross. “Our study helps complete the in vitro puzzle, allowing us to move forward in studying CBD’s effects on glioblastoma in a clinical setting using live animal models. This could lead to new treatments that would help both people and dogs that have this very serious cancer.”
Next, the researchers plan to transition from cell cultures to animal models to test CBD’s effects on glioblastoma. If the animal studies go well, the work could progress to clinical trials on dogs that are being treated for naturally occurring glioblastoma at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Citation: CBD shows promise for fighting aggressive brain cancer (2020, April 27) retrieved 5 September 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-04-cbd-aggressive-brain-cancer.html
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