Cannabis isn’t just useful for alleviating side effects of chemotherapy, it seems the cannabinoids it contains can also help improve the effectiveness of it.
Researchers at St George’s, University of London, have confirmed cannabinoids are particularly effective in killing leukemia cells when used with conventional chemotherapy treatment. This finding could result in lower doses of chemotherapy agents being required.
Chemotherapy drugs are very potent medications. Some would call them toxins or poisons and their use requires those administering the drugs to wear protective clothing. Packaging containing the medicines need to be disposed of in special bags or bins.
On the other hand, cannabinoids tend to have a very good safety profile.
It seems an important part of the cannabinoid + chemo approach is the order in which they are administered and pairing of cannabinoids; e.g. cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). During the study, these were used alongside the common anti-leukaemia drugs cytarabine and vincristine.
“We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of this treatment,” said Dr Wai Liu, who led the study; which has been published in the International Journal of Oncology.
“These extracts are highly concentrated and purified, so smoking marijuana will not have a similar effect. But cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology, and studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximise a therapeutic effect.”
There’s been a significant amount of anectdotal evidence that cannabis has plenty of potential in treating various cancers – and now scientific evidence is mounting to back those claims.
Last year we reported positive results from its initial proof of concept study into the anti-cancer effects of a cannabis medicine in relation to treating breast cancer. In May this year, we mentioned a University of Nottingham study will evaluate the potential of cannabidiol in treating paediatric brain tumours.
It’s encouraging to see all this research occurring as there are many people who could ultimately benefit from it – sadly, for many it will come too late.
Cancer in its many and varied forms is incredibly common – for example, approximately 38.5 percent of the U.S adult population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime.