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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35669038/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpain.2022.861037/full?utm_source=fweb


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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34830856/

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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35260379/

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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35277658/

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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35244889/

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.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35321629/

Non-Canonical Cannabinoid Receptors with Distinct Binding and Signaling Properties in Prostate and Other Cancer Cell Types Mediate Cell Death

“Cannabinoids exert anti-cancer actions; however, the underlying cytotoxic mechanisms and the cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) involved remain unclear. In this study, CBRs were characterized in several cancer cell lines. Radioligand binding screens surprisingly revealed specific binding only for the non-selective cannabinoid [3H]WIN-55,212-2, and not [3H]CP-55,940, indicating that the expressed CBRs exhibit atypical binding properties. Furthermore, [3H]WIN-55,212-2 bound to a single site in all cancer cells with high affinity and varying densities. CBR characteristics were next compared between human prostate cancer cell lines expressing low (PC-3) and high (DU-145) CBR density. Although mRNA for canonical CBRs was detected in both cell lines, only 5 out of 15 compounds with known high affinity for canonical CBRs displaced [3H]WIN-55,212-2 binding. Functional assays further established that CBRs in prostate cancer cells exhibit distinct signaling properties relative to canonical Gi/Go-coupled CBRs. Prostate cancer cells chronically exposed to both CBR agonists and antagonists/inverse agonists produced receptor downregulation, inconsistent with actions at canonical CBRs. Treatment of DU-145 cells with CBR ligands increased LDH-release, decreased ATP-dependent cell viability, and produced mitochondrial membrane potential depolarization. In summary, several cancer cell lines express CBRs with binding and signaling profiles dissimilar to canonical CBRs. Drugs selectively targeting these atypical CBRs might exhibit improved anti-cancer properties.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35328467/

The Pathophysiology and the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids in Prostate Cancer

cancers-logo“Prostate cancer is the second most frequently occurring cancer diagnosed among males. Recent preclinical evidence implicates cannabinoids as powerful regulators of cell growth and differentiation. In this review, we focused on studies that demonstrated anticancer effects of cannabinoids and their possible mechanisms of action in prostate cancer. Besides the palliative effects of cannabinoids, research from the past two decades has demonstrated their promising potential as antitumor agents in a wide variety of cancers. This analysis may provide pharmacological insights into the selection of specific cannabinoids for the development of antitumor drugs for the treatment of prostate cancer.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34439262/

“Prostate cancer, after lung cancer, is the leading cause of death among men. Although the pathophysiological mechanisms and the etiological factors of prostate cancer development are still poorly understood, there are several factors associated with the risk of developing the disease such as age, family history, lifestyle-related factors (e.g., smoking, diet), and testosterone levels. Cannabinoids are an emerging class of pharmacological molecules that may exert their therapeutic effect against different cancers, including those from the prostate. Several studies have shown that various agonists are able to target cannabinoid receptors exhibited on prostate cancer cells.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/13/16/4107

Cannabis and its Constituents for Cancer: History, Biogenesis, Chemistry and Pharmacological Activities

Pharmacological Research “Cannabis has long been used for healing and recreation in several regions of the world. Over 400 bioactive constituents, including more than 100 phytocannabinoids, have been isolated from this plant. The non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) are the major and widely studied constituents from this plant.

Cannabinoids exert their effects through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that comprises cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2), endogenous ligands, and metabolizing enzymes. Several preclinical studies have demonstrated the potential of cannabinoids against leukemia, lymphoma, glioblastoma, and cancers of the breast, colorectum, pancreas, cervix and prostate.

Cannabis and its constituents can modulate multiple cancer related pathways such as PKB, AMPK, CAMKK-β, mTOR, PDHK, HIF-1α, and PPAR-γ. Cannabinoids can block cell growth, progression of cell cycle and induce apoptosis selectively in tumour cells. Cannabinoids can also enhance the efficacy of cancer therapeutics. These compounds have been used for the management of anorexia, queasiness, and pain in cancer patients.

Cannabinoid based products such as dronabinol, nabilone, nabiximols, and epidyolex are now approved for medical use in cancer patients. Cannabinoids are reported to produce a favourable safety profile. However, psychoactive properties and poor bioavailability limit the use of some cannabinoids. The Academic Institutions across the globe are offering training courses on cannabis. How cannabis and its constituents exert anticancer activities is discussed in this article. We also discuss areas that require attention and more extensive research.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33246167/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043661820316108?via%3Dihub

Education and communication are critical to effectively incorporating cannabis into cancer treatment

“Providers need to be better equipped to discuss medical cannabis with patients even if they are not willing to prescribe it. The oncology community would be well served to ensure that providers are aware of existing cannabis research and are able to incorporate it into their communications with patients instead of leaving patients to figure out medical cannabis on their own.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32986251/

https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.33204