Some cannabinoids inhibit the growth of tumour cells in test tubes and mice, but others encourage growth. Human studies are still small and hard to come by.
This is difficult to answer, as research into cannabis and the chemicals in cannabis is still in its infancy. Most of the research so far has involved work in cells and mice. THC and CBD are two of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
This is why research and regulated clinical trials are so important. They enable us to make informed decisions on what treatments are likely to work best based on solid evidence.
Does CBD oil offer any medical benefits?
Walking along your local high street, you’ve probably noticed shops selling CBD oil, along with all sorts of health claims – including the possibility that it could even be used to combat cancer. But could this be true? Could cannabis really cure cancer? We asked our experts to delve into the research.
Relatively. The doses sold in UK health stores are generally too low to cause any serious harm. Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and diarrhoea. Most importantly, it can affect certain medications and you should always check with your GP before trying CBD oil. Because CBD oil is freely available to purchase in stores, it is not as tightly regulated as medicines.
We don’t know yet whether cannabis, or any of the chemicals in cannabis, are useful to treat cancer. But it’s an important topic to discuss. And because we believe in the power of research, we dug into the science to answer some of the top questions you might have on cannabis and its effect on cancer.
One study of cannabis users found they had a lower risk of bladder cancer, but their risk of developing prostate cancer increased.
Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.
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.
How you have it
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.
We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.
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 or not the drug works in humans, what the correct dose is and what the side effects might be. The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.
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.
Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.
Does CBD oil have any side effects?
State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.
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.
But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.
There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.