The Effectiveness and Safety of Medical Cannabis for Treating Cancer Related Symptoms in Oncology Patients

Frontiers in Pain Research (@FrontPain) / Twitter

“The use of medical cannabis (MC) to treat cancer-related symptoms is rising. However, there is a lack of long-term trials to assess the benefits and safety of MC treatment in this population. In this work, we followed up prospectively and longitudinally on the effectiveness and safety of MC treatment.

Oncology patients reported on multiple symptoms before and after MC treatment initiation at one-, three-, and 6-month follow-ups. Oncologists reported on the patients’ disease characteristics. Intention-to-treat models were used to assess changes in outcomes from baseline. MC treatment was initiated by 324 patients and 212, 158 and 126 reported at follow-ups.

Most outcome measures improved significantly during MC treatment for most patients (p < 0.005). Specifically, at 6 months, total cancer symptoms burden declined from baseline by a median of 18%, from 122 (82–157) at baseline to 89 (45–138) at endpoint (−18.98; 95%CI= −26.95 to −11.00; p < 0.001). Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious and remained stable during MC treatment.

The results of this study suggest that MC treatment is generally safe for oncology patients and can potentially reduce the burden of associated symptoms with no serious MC-related adverse effects.

The main finding of the current study is that most cancer comorbid symptoms improved significantly during 6 months of MC treatment.

Additionally, we found that MC treatment in cancer patients was well tolerated and safe.”

Activation of cannabinoid receptors in breast cancer cells improves osteoblast viability in cancer-bone interaction model while reducing breast cancer cell survival and migration

Scientific Reports

“The endocannabinoid system has been postulated to help restrict cancer progression and maintain osteoblastic function during bone metastasis. Herein, the effects of cannabinoid receptor (CB) type 1 and 2 activation on breast cancer cell and osteoblast interaction were investigated by using ACEA and GW405833 as CB1 and CB2 agonists, respectively. Our results showed that breast cancer cell (MDA-MB-231)-derived conditioned media markedly decreased osteoblast-like UMR-106 cell viability. In contrast, media from MDA-MB-231 cells pre-treated with GW405833 improved UMR-106 cell viability. MDA-MB-231 cells were apparently more susceptible to both CB agonists than UMR-106 cells. Thereafter, we sought to answer the question as to how CB agonists reduced MDA-MB-231 cell virulence. Present data showed that co-activation of CB1 and CB2 exerted cytotoxic effects on MDA-MB-231 cells by increasing apoptotic cell death through suppression of the NF-κB signaling pathway in an ROS-independent mechanism. ACEA or GW405833 alone or in combination also inhibited MDA-MB-231 cell migration. Thus, it can be concluded that the endocannabinoid system is able to provide protection during breast cancer bone metastasis by interfering cancer and bone cell interaction as well as by the direct suppression of cancer cell growth and migration.”

“In conclusions, we have demonstrated that the ECS—which was present in bone microenvironment—provided a protection against breast cancer bone metastasis and its negative consequence on bone cell survival. Specifically, CB agonists, especially CB2 agonist, was able to prevent breast cancer-induced osteoblast suppression. Each of the two CB agonists or a combination of both could reduce breast cancer cell survival and migration through the NF-κB-dependent pathway. “

Cannabinol inhibits proliferation and induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in glioblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and breast cancer cells

“Cannabis sativa is an agriculturally and medicinally important plant with many pharmaceutical properties. Cancer is a deadly disease; it is estimated that it will cause over 80 thousand deaths in 2019 in Canada. Although numerous studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids have anti-tumorous properties in various cancers, the anti-malignant activities of cannabinol (CBN) on carcinogenesis and underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, we provide evidence that CBN inhibits proliferation of A172, HB8065 and HCC1806 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. CBN regulates expression of cannabinoid receptors, CB2, GPR55 and GPR18 in different cell lines, while reducing levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 in HCC1806 and phosphorylated AKT in A172 and HB8065 cells. We find that CBN induces apoptosis through downregulation of p21 and p27 and a G1 or S-phase cell cycle arrest through a dose-dependent downregulation of cyclin E1, CDK1 and CDK2. These data support the medicinal potential of CBN in anti-cancer therapy.”

Anti-cancer potential of cannabis terpenes in a taxol-resistant model of breast cancer

“Chemotherapeutic resistance can limit breast cancer outcomes; therefore, the exploration of novel therapeutic options is warranted. Isolated compounds found in cannabis have previously been shown to exhibit anti-cancer effects, but little is known about their effects in resistant breast cancer. Our study aims to evaluate the effects of terpenes found in cannabis in in vitro chemotherapy-resistant model of breast cancer. We aimed to identify whether five terpenes found in cannabis produced anti-cancer effects, and if their effects were improved upon co-treatment with cannabinoids and flavonoids also found in cannabis. Nerolidol and β-caryophyllene produced the greatest cytotoxic effects, activated the apoptotic cascade and reduced cellular invasion. Combinations with the flavonoid kaempferol potentiated the cytotoxic effects of ocimene, terpinolene, and β-myrcene. Combinations of nerolidol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or cannabidiol produced variable responses ranging from antagonism and additivity to synergy, depending on concentrations used. Our results indicate that cannabis terpenes, alone or combined with cannabinoids and flavonoids, produced anti-cancer effects in chemotherapy-resistant breast cancer cell lines. This study is a first step in the identification of compounds that could have therapeutic potential in the treatment of resistant breast cancer.”

The Endocannabinoid System as a Pharmacological Target for New Cancer Therapies

“Despite the long history of cannabinoid use for medicinal and ritual purposes, an endogenous system of cannabinoid-controlled receptors, as well as their ligands and the enzymes that synthesise and degrade them, was only discovered in the 1990s. Since then, the endocannabinoid system has attracted widespread scientific interest regarding new pharmacological targets in cancer treatment among other reasons. Meanwhile, extensive preclinical studies have shown that cannabinoids have an inhibitory effect on tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, chemoresistance and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and induce tumour cell apoptosis and autophagy as well as immune response. Appropriate cannabinoid compounds could moreover be useful for cancer patients as potential combination partners with other chemotherapeutic agents to increase their efficacy while reducing unwanted side effects. In addition to the direct activation of cannabinoid receptors through the exogenous application of corresponding agonists, another strategy is to activate these receptors by increasing the endocannabinoid levels at the corresponding pathological hotspots. Indeed, a number of studies accordingly showed an inhibitory effect of blockers of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) on tumour development and spread. This review summarises the relevant preclinical studies with FAAH and MAGL inhibitors compared to studies with cannabinoids and provides an overview of the regulation of the endocannabinoid system in cancer.”

Plant-derived cannabinoids as anticancer agents

“Substantial preclinical evidence demonstrates the antiproliferative, cytotoxic, and antimetastatic properties of plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) such as cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. The cumulative body of research into the intracellular mechanisms and phenotypic effects of these compounds supports a logical, judicious progression to large-scale phase II/III clinical trials in certain cancer types to truly assess the efficacy of phytocannabinoids as anticancer agents.”

Cannabinoids as anticancer drugs: current status of preclinical research

“Drugs that target the endocannabinoid system are of interest as pharmacological options to combat cancer and to improve the life quality of cancer patients. From this perspective, cannabinoid compounds have been successfully tested as a systemic therapeutic option in a number of preclinical models over the past decades. As a result of these efforts, a large body of data suggests that the anticancer effects of cannabinoids are exerted at multiple levels of tumour progression via different signal transduction mechanisms. Accordingly, there is considerable evidence for cannabinoid-mediated inhibition of tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion and metastasis, angiogenesis and chemoresistance, as well as induction of apoptosis and autophagy. Further studies showed that cannabinoids could be potential combination partners for established chemotherapeutic agents or other therapeutic interventions in cancer treatment. Research in recent years has yielded several compounds that exert promising effects on tumour cells and tissues in addition to the psychoactive Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, such as the non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol and inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation. This review provides an up-to-date overview of the potential of cannabinoids as inhibitors of tumour growth and spread as demonstrated in preclinical studies.”

Cannabidiol and Other Phytocannabinoids as Cancer Therapeutics

“Preclinical models provided ample evidence that cannabinoids are cytotoxic against cancer cells. Among the best studied phytocannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) is most promising for the treatment of cancer as it lacks the psychotomimetic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In vitro studies and animal experiments point to a concentration- (dose-)dependent anticancer effect. The effectiveness of pure compounds versus extracts is the subject of an ongoing debate. Actual results demonstrate that CBD-rich hemp extracts must be distinguished from THC-rich cannabis preparations. Whereas pure CBD was superior to CBD-rich extracts in most in vitro experiments, the opposite was observed for pure THC and THC-rich extracts, although exceptions were noted. The cytotoxic effects of CBD, THC and extracts seem to depend not only on the nature of cannabinoids and the presence of other phytochemicals but also largely on the nature of cell lines and test conditions. Neither CBD nor THC are universally efficacious in reducing cancer cell viability. The combination of pure cannabinoids may have advantages over single agents, although the optimal ratio seems to depend on the nature of cancer cells; the existence of a ‘one size fits all’ ratio is very unlikely. As cannabinoids interfere with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a better understanding of the circadian rhythmicity of the ECS, particularly endocannabinoids and receptors, as well as of the rhythmicity of biological processes related to the growth of cancer cells, could enhance the efficacy of a therapy with cannabinoids by optimization of the timing of the administration, as has already been reported for some of the canonical chemotherapeutics. Theoretically, a CBD dose administered at noon could increase the peak of anandamide and therefore the effects triggered by this agent. Despite the abundance of preclinical articles published over the last 2 decades, well-designed controlled clinical trials on CBD in cancer are still missing. The number of observations in cancer patients, paired with the anticancer activity repeatedly reported in preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies warrants serious scientific exploration moving forward.”

Cannabis as a potential compound against various malignancies, legal aspects, advancement by exploiting nanotechnology and clinical trials

“Various preclinical and clinical studies exhibited the potential of cannabis against various diseases, including cancer and related pain. Subsequently, many efforts have been made to establish and develop cannabis-related products and make them available as prescription products. Moreover, FDA has already approved some cannabis-related products, and more advancement in this aspect is still going on. However, the approved product of cannabis is in oral dosage form, which exerts various limitations to achieve maximum therapeutic effects. A considerable translation is on a hike to improve bioavailability, and ultimately, the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis by the employment of nanotechnology. Besides the well-known psychotropic effects of cannabis upon the use at high doses, literature has also shown the importance of cannabis and its constituents in minimising the lethality of cancer in the preclinical models. This review discusses the history of cannabis, its legal aspect, safety profile, the mechanism by which cannabis combats with cancer, and the advancement of clinical therapy by exploiting nanotechnology. A brief discussion related to the role of cannabinoid in various cancers has also been incorporated. Lastly, the information regarding completed and ongoing trials have also been elaborated.”

Role of Caryophyllane Sesquiterpenes in the Entourage Effect of Felina 32 Hemp Inflorescence Phytocomplex in Triple Negative MDA-MB-468 Breast Cancer Cells

“Cannabis sativa L. crops have been traditionally exploited as sources of fibers, nutrients, and bioactive phytochemicals of medical interest. In the present study, two terpene-rich organic extracts, namely FOJ and FOS, obtained from Felina 32 hemp inflorescences collected in June and September, respectively, have been studied for their in vitro anticancer properties. Particularly, their cytotoxicity was evaluated in different cancer cell lines, and the possible entourage effect between nonintoxicating phytocannabinoids (cannabidiol and cannabichromene) and caryophyllane sesquiterpenes (β-caryophyllene, β-caryophyllene oxide and α-humulene), as identified at GC/MS analysis, was characterized. Modulation of cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors was studied as a mechanistic hypothesis. Results highlighted marked cytotoxic effects of FOJ, FOS, and pure compounds in triple negative breast cancer MDA-MB-468 cells, likely mediated by a CB2 receptor activation. Cannabidiol was the main cytotoxic constituent, although low levels of caryophyllane sesquiterpenes and cannabichromene induced potentiating effects; the presence in the extracts of unknown antagonistic compounds has been highlighted too. These results suggest an interest in Felina 32 hemp inflorescences as a source of bioactive phytocomplexes with anticancer properties and strengthen the importance of considering the possible involvement of minor terpenes, such as caryophyllane sesquiterpenes, in the entourage effect of hemp-based extracts.”