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

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“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.”

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.”

A Low Dose of Pure Cannabidiol Is Sufficient to Stimulate the Cytotoxic Function of CIK Cells without Exerting the Downstream Mediators in Pancreatic Cancer Cells

“Despite numerous studies conducted over the past decade, the exact role of the cannabinoid system in cancer development remains unclear. Though research has focused on two cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2) activated by most cannabinoids, CB2 holds greater attention due to its expression in cells of the immune system. In particular, cytokine-induced killer cells (CIKs), which are pivotal cytotoxic immunological effector cells, express a high-level of CB2 receptors. Herein, we sought to investigate whether inducing CIK cells with cannabidiol can enhance their cytotoxicity and if there are any possible counter effects in its downstream cascade of phosphorylated p38 and CREB using a pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell line (PANC-1). Our results showed that IL-2 modulates primarily the expression of the CB2 receptor on CIK cells used during ex vivo CIK expansion. The autophagosomal-associated scaffold protein p62 was found to co-localize with CB2 receptors in CIK cells and the PANC-1 cell line. CIK cells showed a low level of intracellular phospho-p38 and, when stimulated with cannabidiol (CBD), a donor specific variability in phospho-CREB. CBD significantly decreases the viability of PANC-1 cells presumably by increasing the cytotoxicity of CIK cells. Taken together, in our preclinical in vitro study, we propose that a low effective dose of CBD is sufficient to stimulate the cytotoxic function of CIK without exerting any associated mediator. Thus, the combinatorial approach of non-psychoactive CBD and CIK cells appears to be safe and can be considered for a clinical perspective in pancreatic 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.”

Cannabis sativa Extract Induces Apoptosis in Human Pancreatic 3D Cancer Models: Importance of Major Antioxidant Molecules Present Therein

“In recent years, interest in Cannabis sativa L. has been rising, as legislation is moving in the right direction. This plant has been known and used for thousands of years for its many active ingredients that lead to various therapeutic effects (pain management, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, etc.). In this report, our objective was to optimize a method for the extraction of cannabinoids from a clone of Cannabis sativa L. #138 resulting from an agronomic test (LaFleur, Angers, FR). Thus, we wished to identify compounds with anticancer activity on human pancreatic tumor cell lines. Three static maceration procedures, with different extraction parameters, were compared based on their median inhibitory concentration (IC50) values and cannabinoid extraction yield. As CBD emerged as the molecule responsible for inducing apoptosis in the human pancreatic cancer cell line, a CBD-rich cannabis strain remains attractive for therapeutic applications. Additionally, while gemcitabine, a gold standard drug in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, only triggers cell cycle arrest in G0/G1, CBD also activates the cell signaling cascade to lead to programmed cell death. Our results emphasize the potential of natural products issued from medicinal hemp for pancreatic cancer therapy, as they lead to an accumulation of intracellular superoxide ions, affect the mitochondrial membrane potential, induce G1 cell cycle arrest, and ultimately drive the pancreatic cancer cell to lethal apoptosis.”

Targeting the Endocannabinoid System: From the Need for New Therapies to the Development of a Promising Strategy. What About Pancreatic Cancer?

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the most fatal malignancies, and therefore, new strategies, which aim at the improvement of the prognosis of this lethal disease, are needed. Many clinical trials have failed to improve overall survival. Nowadays, research is focused on advances provided by novel potential targets to efficiently enhance life expectancy. Cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis sativa L., and their derivatives, have been reported as palliative adjuvants to conventional chemotherapeutic regimens. Cannabinoid effects are known to be mediated through the activation of cannabinoid receptors. To date, two cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoid receptor 1 and 2, have been cloned and identified from mammalian tissues. Cannabinoids exert a remarkable antitumoral effect on pancreatic cancer cells, due to their ability to selectively induce apoptosis of these cells. This review strengthens the perception that cannabinoid receptors might be useful in clinical testing to prognose and treat pancreatic cancer. Many studies have tried to describe the mechanism of cell death induced by cannabinoids. The aim of this review is to discuss the effects of cannabinoid receptors in pancreatic cancer in order to provide a brief insight into cannabinoids and their receptors as pancreatic cancer biomarkers and in therapeutic strategies.”

Targeting the Endocannabinoidome in Pancreatic Cancer

“Pancreatic Ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common malignancy of the pancreas, is an aggressive and lethal form of cancer with a very high mortality rate. High heterogeneity, asymptomatic initial stages and a lack of specific diagnostic markers result in an end-stage diagnosis when the tumour has locally advanced or metastasised. PDAC is resistant to most of the available chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments, making surgery the most potent curative treatment. The desmoplastic tumour microenvironment contributes to determining PDAC pathophysiology, immune response and therapeutic efficacy. The existing therapeutic approaches such as FDA-approved chemotherapeutics, gemcitabine, abraxane and folfirinox, prolong survival marginally and are accompanied by adverse effects. Several studies suggest the role of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents. Cannabinoid receptors are known to be expressed in pancreatic cells, with a higher expression reported in pancreatic cancer patients. Therefore, pharmacological targeting of the endocannabinoid system might offer therapeutic benefits in pancreatic cancer. In addition, emerging data suggest that cannabinoids in combination with chemotherapy can increase survival in transgenic pancreatic cancer murine models. This review provides an overview of the regulation of the expanded endocannabinoid system, or endocannabinoidome, in PDAC and will explore the potential of targeting this system for novel anticancer approaches.”