It’s undoubtedly a delicate subject, but cancer ultimately affects over a third of people during their lives, and it manifests in many ways. As CBD gains momentum, more cancer-sufferers are turning to cannabidiol as a complementary treatment to help manage the various symptoms of cancer, as well as the side-effects caused by cancer treatments.

CBD is extensively accredited with anti-pain properties, and it is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties, and for easing anxiety. These are all symptoms often broadly related to cancer and its treatment.

According to Cancer Research UK, scientific research has shown cannabinoids, the group of compounds that includes CBD, to cause cell death, block cell growth, stop the development of blood vessels needed for tumour growth, reduce inflammation, and to also reduce the ability of cancers to spread. So let’s examine some of the recent research that adds weight to potential claims surrounding CBD and cancer. 

As a Treatment for Cancer

It’s always advisable to discuss complementary treatments with your doctor, and CBD is no different. As CBD popularity rockets, more and more research into its efficacy as a cancer treatment is emerging, and a 2016 study entitled ‘The use of cannabinoids as anticancer agents’ examines the positive role that the endocannabinoid system may play in the regulation of tumour generation and progression. 

It also suggests that cannabinoid receptor-ligands induce cancer cell death, and inhibit tumour angiogenesis (blood vessel development). It also highlights how cannabinoids are currently being tested as anti-cancer agents in phase I/II clinical studies.

A 2019 paper ‘Potential Use of Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer suggested that cannabidiol may be effective as a complementary treatment for pancreatic cancer. It explains how the body’s cannabinoid system has remained unchanged for over 500 million years and asserts that CBD increases the susceptibility of tumor cells to the lymphokine-activated killer cells. Additionally, the paper suggests that CBD activating CB2 receptors may induce pancreatic cell apoptosis (programmed cell death), without affecting ‘normal’ pancreas cells.

Another 2019 study published in Oncotarget indicates that CBD could provoke cell death and render glioblastoma tomor cells more sensitive to radiation, whilst having no effect on healthy cells.

A 2014 study published in Phytomedicine indicates that CBD may play a role in inhibiting the spread of colorectal cancer cells, and in another 2014 study, cannabinoids may prove to be useful in the treatment of gliomas, a type of tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord.

A 2010 research paper indicated that CBD significantly reduced breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion. There is also some evidence to suggest that CBD might enhance the uptake, or increase the potency, of certain drugs used to treat cancer.

Managing Symptoms

It is believed by many that CBD interacts with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and immune system to reduce inflammation, and to control pain. Examining research from the 1970’s onwards, a 2018 paper entitled ‘Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules’ firstly acknowledges that cannabis has been used for medicinal purpose for thousands of years. It goes on to review studies on cancer pain, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia that indicate CBD to be effective in overall pain management, without causing negative side-effects.

CBD is often turned-to by patients undergoing cancer treatment to help alleviate sickness and pain. In fact, there are licensed drugs based on cannabinoids used to treat such symptoms. Sativex combines CBD with THC. Trials have shown the drug to relieve cancer-related pain. The cannabis-based medicine, Nabilone, is used as a treatment for nausea and sickness experienced by people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

Managing a serious illness can without doubt induce anxiety and worry, and CBD is widely taken to control anxiety. CBD interacts with the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors that are widely found throughout the body’s central and peripheral nervous systems. Although it is not yet fully understood exactly how CBD affects the CB1 receptors in the brain, it may well alter serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our mental health. Because of this, some people may be able to manage anxiety with CBD alone, rather than with conventional SSRI drugs prescribed by licensed practitioners.

So as more research surrounding CBD and cancer emerges, again, one should always seek advice from a licensed medical practitioner concerning their illness and symptom management. Fortunately though, when used as a complementary treatment, CBD users can take comfort from the fact that CBD carries very few side affects. 

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