Chemo- and/or radiotherapy is a heavy burden for cancer patients, both physically and psychologically. Medical cannabis can be used here to alleviate the side effects and improve the quality of life of patients. To date, there are no conclusive studies that would allow a reliable statement to be made as to whether the inhalation of medical cannabis additionally damages the lungs in lung cancer.
In 2019, researchers from Rangsit University in Thailand published the interesting results of their study (1). In a mouse model they were able to show that the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) were able to inhibit the growth of bronchial carcinoma. The researchers attribute the anti-cancer properties mainly to the combination of THC and CBN.
However, researchers from the Medical Research Institute in New Zealand came to a different conclusion (5). In this case-control study, 79 lung cancer patients and 324 controls were enrolled. Here the researchers found that the risk of cancer increased by eight percent for each year of cannabis use. The researchers concluded that long-term cannabis use may increase the risk of lung cancer.
Therapy options for pulmonary cancer
(5) Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, Wellington, 2008, „Cannabis use and risk of lung cancer: a case-control study“
There are two types of lung tumours. Approximately one in five patients suffers from small-cell bronchial carcinoma. This aggressive tumour grows very quickly and usually forms early metastases in other organs.
Because of the uncertain study situation, lung cancer patients are advised not to inhale/vaporize medical cannabis. Instead, prescription drugs (oily solutions) or ready-to-use drugs can be used.
The tumour in non-small cell lung cancer is assessed using the TNM classification. Here, the letter T (tumour) describes the size of the tumour and how far it has spread. N (node) indicates whether the lymph nodes are affected and M (metastasis) indicates whether the tumour has metastasised.
It is also important to note that some studies have shown that CBD might interfere with how your body processes cancer drugs, called a drug interaction. This might make cancer treatments more toxic or make them less effective. More research is needed on these effects, too. For these reasons, always tell your oncologist if you’re thinking about using CBD before you take it.
Yet there’s very little research around CBD and its use in treating people with cancer. Here’s what to know about what CBD is and what science currently shows about whether it’s safe and effective for people with cancer to use.
There is much about CBD that is still unknown. It has largely gone unstudied because, until 2018, it was considered a schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A schedule I drug is a drug that has been declared illegal by the DEA because of safety concerns over its potential for abuse and because there is no accepted medical use for it. Then, in September 2018, the DEA updated CBD’s status to become a schedule V drug. Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse and are deemed to have some medical use.
Can CBD help people with cancer?
There are 2 synthetic cannabis medications, nabilone (Cesamet) and dronabinol (Marinol or Syndros), that are FDA-approved to treat nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. These medications are made in a laboratory.
CBD comes from cannabis plants called hemp that are specifically grown with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC. Cannabis plants grown with high levels of THC are usually called marijuana. CBD comes from oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. That oil can then be ingested as a liquid, a capsule, a gummy, or inhaled through vaping. It can also be added as an ingredient in such products as lotions and skin patches.
There have been some studies that show that CBD, alone or together with THC, may relieve pain, insomnia, or anxiety, but these studies were not specific to people with cancer. While no studies to date have shown that CBD eases these side effects specifically in people with cancer or people receiving cancer treatment, some people with cancer have reported benefits in taking CBD, such as helping with nausea, vomiting, depression, and other side effects. According to ASCO guidelines, your doctor may consider prescribing cannabinoids for chronic pain management if you live in a state where it is legal. However, ASCO guidelines state that there is not enough evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for preventing nausea and vomiting in people with cancer receiving radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
To date, no large-scale studies have shown CBD to have benefits for the treatment of people with cancer. Most studies that have been done evaluating CBD as a cancer treatment were in mice or in human cells in the lab. For instance, there are some studies that have shown that CBD inhibits the growth of cancer cells in mice with lung cancer or colon cancer. Another study showed that CBD, together with THC, killed glioblastoma cancer cells in the lab. However, no studies have been conducted in people with cancer.
CBD has a very complex legal status right now.
Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.
There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.
CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.
Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?
And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.
Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.