Could CBD be an effective treatment to help fight cancer?
The use of CBD for therapeutic purposes such as relief for anxiety and depression and promoting sleep has become a common practice. However, there have also been claims that CBD could contribute to the treatment of cancer and its symptoms.
Although there is still much more scientific research that needs to be done, several anecdotal pieces of evidence have been shared about the benefits of CBD for cancer patients.
How can CBD be used in cancer treatments?
Some members of the cancer community advocate for CBD as an antidote to the side effects of conventional cancer treatments such as
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea
- Appetite loss
- They also use it to manage some symptoms of cancer including inflammation and chronic pain.
CBD is thought to target receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which is believed to help with the regulation of some mental functions such as:
- Fertility and reproduction
These receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 are found in the nervous system and immune system respectively. CBD binds to these receptors and although the specific way in which they interact is still being investigated, the effect of this interaction on the body can result in pain relief and signalling for inflammation.
There is also the idea that CBD may increase the potency of certain standard medications used for cancer treatments.
A review published in 2016 showed that CBD can help with slowing tumour growth and reducing their invasion as well as inducing tumour cell death.
It also noted that CBD had anticancer actions in animal models of cancer
While more research investigating the effectiveness of different formulations, dosing, and precise mode of action of CBD as a cancer treatment, this evidence shows promise.
There are many doctors and patients that swear by the medicinal benefits of CBD. The American Society of Clinical Oncology, ASCO, also says that there may be value in its use.
However, it is strongly recommended that any cancer patient thinking about using a CBD product, has a conversation with their oncologist before doing so.
Anecdotal evidence of CBD dosage in cancer treatment
In February 2014, Ray Jennings, from Oklahoma, was diagnosed with stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. He had a tumour on the base of his tongue and mouth.
Halfway through his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he was losing the battle due to chemotherapy-induced nausea causing him to lose weight drastically. He began taking a small amount of CBD oil every day, placing it at the tumour site together with honey.
He had been taking CBD for 3 of the 6 months that he sought traditional cancer treatments. His nausea became controllable and he was able to stop losing as much weight as before.
In August 2014, Jennings was cancer free.
Lung cancer patient in her 80s
Another report of a woman in her 80s, who refused conventional treatments, described the results of her tumour regression while taking CBD oil. She was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and in June and July of 2018, doctors performed a CT scan, a PET scan, an MRI scan, and a biopsy, to stage and confirm this diagnosis.
The woman's first CT scan showed a 41-millimetre (mm), or 1.6-inch (in), nodule in the middle lobe of her right lung.
The scans also showed that there was no involvement with the lymph nodes or any metastases, showing that the cancer hadn't spread to other parts of the body.
Her doctors had recommended curative treatment for her diagnosis. However, she refused these. Treatments for NSCLC may include surgery, radiofrequency ablation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
In September of the same year, the chest CT scan was repeated, showing a reduction of the right middle lobe cancer to 33 mm (1.3 in), and two new nodules in the left apex and right upper lobe. She had refused any surgical treatments as well as radiotherapy so the doctors began monitoring her condition every 3-6 months, over a period of 2.5 years.
In February 2021, her CT scans showed a progressive decrease of the initial right middle lobe nodule from 41 mm (1.6 in) to 10 mm (0.4 in).
At that point, she revealed that she had self-administered CBD oil as a treatment, taking 0.5 milliliters orally two to three times a day shortly after her diagnosis.
A story from a younger woman, Cheyann, who was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer at the age of 23 describes the use of CBD to battle her side effects of chemotherapy.
She says taking CBD was a key part in helping her not feel nauseous or sick. It also helped manage her appetite. She had multiple surgeries which resulted in a sensitive and shrunken stomach. She had been losing weight very quickly because she couldn't eat but once she started taking the CBD, it helped her to get back to eating full meals.
CBD is also thought to help regulate cortisol production, which is a hormone that helps the body deal with stress. Cheyann says it helped her overcome the exhaustion from the chemotherapy as well as the anxiety she felt on certain days.
These anecdotal pieces of evidence appear to demonstrate the potential benefits of taking CBD oil for cancer treatments. It is still necessary for more definitive research in order to define the effects and interactions of CBD with different cancers and conventional treatments.
There won't be a single CBD treatment that works for everyone. The effects on different types of cancer, adverse reactions, optimal and safe dosage and how best CBD can be administered still need to be studied.
It is important to have a conversation with your oncologist or doctor should you be considering taking CBD as a cancer patient.