Targeting Cannabinoid Signaling in the Immune System: “High”-ly Exciting Questions, Possibilities, and Challenges.

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“It is well known that certain active ingredients of the plants of Cannabis genus, i.e., the “phytocannabinoids” [pCBs; e.g., (-)-trans9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), (-)-cannabidiol, etc.] can influence a wide array of biological processes, and the human body is able to produce endogenous analogs of these substances [“endocannabinoids” (eCB), e.g., arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide, AEA), 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), etc.].

These ligands, together with multiple receptors (e.g., CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, etc.), and a complex enzyme and transporter apparatus involved in the synthesis and degradation of the ligands constitute the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a recently emerging regulator of several physiological processes.

The ECS is widely expressed in the human body, including several members of the innate and adaptive immune system, where eCBs, as well as several pCBs were shown to deeply influence immune functions thereby regulating inflammation, autoimmunity, antitumor, as well as antipathogen immune responses, etc.

Based on this knowledge, many in vitro and in vivo studies aimed at exploiting the putative therapeutic potential of cannabinoid signaling in inflammation-accompanied diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis) or in organ transplantation, and to dissect the complex immunological effects of medical and “recreational” marijuana consumption.

Thus, the objective of the current article is (i) to summarize the most recent findings of the field; (ii) to highlight the putative therapeutic potential of targeting cannabinoid signaling; (iii) to identify open questions and key challenges; and (iv) to suggest promising future directions for cannabinoid-based drug development.”   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29176975

“Although, many open questions await to be answered, pharmacological modulation of the (endo)cannabinoid signaling, and restoration of the homeostatic eCB tone of the tissues augur to be very promising future directions in the management of several pathological inflammation-accompanied diseases.”   https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01487/full
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Current evidence of cannabinoid-based analgesia obtained in preclinical and human experimental settings.

European Journal of Pain

“Cannabinoids have a long record of recreational and medical use and become increasingly approved for pain therapy. This development is based on preclinical and human experimental research summarized in this review.

Cannabinoid CB1 receptors are widely expressed throughout the nociceptive system. Their activation by endogenous or exogenous cannabinoids modulates the release of neurotransmitters. This is reflected in antinociceptive effects of cannabinoids in preclinical models of inflammatory, cancer and neuropathic pain, and by nociceptive hypersensitivity of cannabinoid receptor-deficient mice.

Cannabis-based medications available for humans mainly comprise Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and nabilone.

During the last 10 years, six controlled studies assessing analgesic effects of cannabinoid-based drugs in human experimental settings were reported. An effect on nociceptive processing could be translated to the human setting in functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that pointed at a reduced connectivity within the pain matrix of the brain. However, cannabinoid-based drugs heterogeneously influenced the perception of experimentally induced pain including a reduction in only the affective but not the sensory perception of pain, only moderate analgesic effects, or occasional hyperalgesic effects. This extends to the clinical setting.

While controlled studies showed a lack of robust analgesic effects, cannabis was nearly always associated with analgesia in open-label or retrospective reports, possibly indicating an effect on well-being or mood, rather than on sensory pain. Thus, while preclinical evidence supports cannabinoid-based analgesics, human evidence presently provides only reluctant support for a broad clinical use of cannabinoid-based medications in pain therapy.

SIGNIFICANCE:

Cannabinoids consistently produced antinociceptive effects in preclinical models, whereas they heterogeneously influenced the perception of experimentally induced pain in humans and did not provide robust clinical analgesia, which jeopardizes the translation of preclinical research on cannabinoid-mediated antinociception into the human setting.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29160600

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejp.1148/abstract?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+usage+report+download+page+will+be+unavailable+on+Friday+24th+November+2017+at+21%3A00+EST+%2F+02.00+GMT+%2F+10%3A00+SGT+%28Saturday+25th+Nov+for+SGT+

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Associations between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study.

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“Current levels and dangers of opioid use in the U.S. warrant the investigation of harm-reducing treatment alternatives.

PURPOSE:

A preliminary, historical, cohort study was used to examine the association between enrollment in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) and opioid prescription use.

RESULTS:

By the end of the 21 month observation period, MCP enrollment was associated with 17.27 higher age- and gender-adjusted odds of ceasing opioid prescriptions (CI 1.89 to 157.36, p = 0.012), 5.12 higher odds of reducing daily prescription opioid dosages (CI 1.56 to 16.88, p = 0.007), and a 47 percentage point reduction in daily opioid dosages relative to a mean change of positive 10.4 percentage points in the comparison group (CI -90.68 to -3.59, p = 0.034). The monthly trend in opioid prescriptions over time was negative among MCP patients (-0.64mg IV morphine, CI -1.10 to -0.18, p = 0.008), but not statistically different from zero in the comparison group (0.18mg IV morphine, CI -0.02 to 0.39, p = 0.081). Survey responses indicated improvements in pain reduction, quality of life, social life, activity levels, and concentration, and few side effects from using cannabis one year after enrollment in the MCP (ps<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS:

The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29145417

“In summary, if cannabis can serve as an alternative to prescription opioids for at least some patients, legislators and the medical community may want to consider medical cannabis programs as a potential tool for combating the current opioid epidemic.”   http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0187795

“Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction”  http://news.unm.edu/news/study-finds-medical-cannabis-is-effective-at-reducing-opioid-addiction

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Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

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“A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use cannabis and significant reductions in opioid use.

The study titled, “Associations between Medical Cannabis and Prescription Opioid Use in Chronic Pain Patients: A Preliminary Cohort Study,” and published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by Drs. Jacob Miguel Vigil, associate professor, Department of Psychology and Sarah See Stith, assistant professor, Department of Economics.

The results from this preliminary study showed a strong correlation between enrollment in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program (MCP) and cessation or reduction of opioid use, and that whole, natural Cannabis sativa and extracts made from the plant may serve as an alternative to opioid-based medications for treating chronic pain.

“If cannabis can serve as an alternative to prescription opioids for at least some patients, legislators and the medical community may want to consider medical cannabis programs as a potential tool for combating the current opioid epidemic,””

http://news.unm.edu/news/study-finds-medical-cannabis-is-effective-at-reducing-opioid-addiction

“Associations between medical cannabis and prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients: A preliminary cohort study.” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0187795

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Medical cannabis Q&A

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  • “1. What is medical cannabis?

The term “medical cannabis” is used to describe products derived from the whole cannabis plant or its extracts containing a variety of active cannabinoids and terpenes, which patients take for medical reasons, after interacting with and obtaining authorization from their health care practitioner.

  • 2. What are the main active ingredients?

The chemical ingredients of cannabis are called cannabinoids. The 2 main therapeutic ones are:

  •  A Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is psychoactive and produces the euphoric effect.
  •  B Cannabidiol (CBD) has a weak affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors and appears to exert its activity by enhancing the positive effects of the body’s endogenous cannabinoids
 3. Why do patients take it?

Medical cannabis may be used to alleviate symptoms for a variety of conditions. It has most commonly been used in neuropathic pain and other chronic pain conditions. There is limited, but developing, clinical evidence surrounding its safety and efficacy, and it does not currently have an approved Health Canada indication.

  • 4. How do patients take it?

Cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, taken orally, sublingually, topically or rectally. Different routes of administration will result in different pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of the drug.

  • 5. Is it possible to develop dependence on medical cannabis?

Yes, abrupt discontinuation after long-term use may result in withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, chronic use may result in psychological dependence.

  • 6. What is the difference between medical and recreational cannabis?

Patients taking cannabis for medical reasons generally use cannabinoids to alleviate symptoms while minimizing intoxication, whereas recreational users may be taking cannabis for euphoric effects. Medical cannabis is authorized by a prescriber who provides a medical document allowing individuals to obtain cannabis from a licensed producer or apply to Health Canada to grow their own, whereas recreational cannabis is currently obtained through illicit means.

  • 7. How can patients access cannabis for medical purposes?
  • 8. Does medical cannabis have a DIN?

Pharmacological cannabinoids such as Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-cannabidiol) and Cesamet (nabilone) have been approved for specific indications by Health Canada, however, herbal medical cannabis has not gone through Health Canada’s drug review and approval process, nor does it have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Product Number (NPN).

  • 9. Is medical cannabis covered through insurance?

Some insurance plans may cover medical cannabis. Check each patient’s individual plan for more details.

  • 10. What role can pharmacists play in medical cannabis?

Even though pharmacists are not dispensing medical cannabis at this time, it is important for them to understand how their patients may use and access medical cannabis in order to provide effective medication management. Pharmacists may provide counselling on areas such as contraindications, drug interactions, management of side effects, alternative therapies, potential addictive behaviour and appropriate use.

  • 11. Where can I find more information about medical cannabis?

You can find more information on Health Canada’s website:” https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/medical-use-marijuana/medical-use-marijuana.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661684/

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Availability and approval of cannabis-based medicines for chronic pain management and palliative/supportive care in Europe: A survey of the status in the chapters of the European Pain Federation.

European Journal of Pain

“There is considerable public and political interest in the use of cannabis products for medical purposes.

METHODS:

The task force of the European Pain Federation (EFIC) conducted a survey with its national chapters representatives on the status of approval of all types of cannabis-based medicines, the covering of costs and the availability of a position paper of a national medical association on the use of medical cannabis for chronic pain and for symptom control in palliative/supportive care.

RESULTS:

Thirty-one out of 37 contacted councillors responded. Plant-derived tetrahydrocannabinol/cannabidiol (THC/CBD) oromucosal spray is approved for spasticity in multiple sclerosis refractory to conventional treatment in 21 EFIC chapters. Plant-derived THC (dronabinol) is approved for some palliative care conditions in four EFIC chapters. Synthetic THC analogue (nabilone) is approved for chemotherapy-associated nausea and vomiting refractory to conventional treatment in four EFIC chapters’. Eight EFIC chapters’ countries have an exceptional and six chapters an expanded access programme for medical cannabis. German and Israeli pain societies recommend the use of cannabis-based medicines as third-line drug therapies for chronic pain within a multicomponent approach. Conversely, the German medical association and a team of finish experts and officials do not recommend the prescription of medical cannabis due to the lack of high-quality evidence of efficacy and the potential harms.

CONCLUSIONS:

There are marked differences between the countries represented in EFIC in the approval and availability of cannabis-based products for medical use. EFIC countries are encouraged to collaborate with the European Medicines Agency to publish a common document on cannabis-based medicines.

SIGNIFICANCE:

There are striking differences between European countries in the availability of plant-derived and synthetic cannabinoids and of medical cannabis for pain management and for symptom control in palliative care and in the covering of costs by health insurance companies or state social security systems.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29134767

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejp.1147/abstract

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Pharmacokinetic and behavioural profile of THC, CBD, and THC+CBD combination after pulmonary, oral, and subcutaneous administration in rats and confirmation of conversion in vivo of CBD to THC.

European Neuropsychopharmacology Home

“Of central importance was the novel finding that THC can be detected in serum and brain after administration of CBD alone which, if confirmed in humans and given the increasing medical use of CBD-only products, might have important legal and forensic ramifications.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29129557  http://www.europeanneuropsychopharmacology.com/article/S0924-977X(17)30983-5/fulltext

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Cannabinoids offer alternatives to opioids for pain relief, experts say.

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“Alternatives to opioids can be used alone or in combination with opioids for pain relief, to help prevent medical exposure to narcotics being an entry point to misuse, said experts at a medical education forum in Washington, DC on 3 November.

Endocannabinoid compounds found in marijuana can greatly enhance the potency of opioids in relieving pain.

The synergy from using these drugs together can result in more effective pain relief from lower doses of opioids,”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29113969

http://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5140.full

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Oral administration of cannabis with lipids leads to high levels of cannabinoids in the intestinal lymphatic system and prominent immunomodulation.

 

 

“Cannabidiol (CBD) and ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have well documented immunomodulatory effects in vitro, but not following oral administration in humans. Here we show that oral co-administration of cannabinoids with lipids can substantially increase their intestinal lymphatic transport in rats. Moreover, immune cells from MS patients were more susceptible to the immunosuppressive effects of cannabinoids than those from healthy volunteers or cancer patients. Therefore, administering cannabinoids with a high-fat meal or in lipid-based formulations has the potential to be a therapeutic approach to improve the treatment of MS, or indeed other autoimmune disorders.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29109461

“Cannabis sativa has a very long history of medical use. In summary, it has been demonstrated in this work that oral co-administration of cannabis or cannabis-based medicines with lipids results in extremely high levels of lipophilic cannabinoids in the intestinal lymphatic system and prominent immunomodulatory effects. Therefore, administering cannabinoids with a high-fat meal, as cannabis-containing food, or in lipid-based formulations has the potential to be a therapeutic approach to improve the treatment of MS, or indeed other autoimmune disorders.”  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-15026-z

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Review: The Role of Cannabinoids on Esophageal Function-What We Know Thus Far.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) primarily consists of cannabinoid receptors (CBRs), endogenous ligands, and enzymes for endocannabinoid biosynthesis and inactivation. Although the presence of CBRs, both CB1 and CB2, as well as a third receptor (G-protein receptor 55 [GPR55]), has been established in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, few studies have focused on the role of cannabinoids on esophageal function. To date, studies have shown their effect on GI motility, inflammation and immunity, intestinal and gastric acid secretion, nociception and emesis pathways, and appetite control. Given the varying and sometimes limited efficacy of current medical therapies for diseases of the esophagus, further understanding and investigation into the interplay of the ECS on esophageal health and disease may present new therapeutic modalities that may help advance current treatment options. In this brief review, the current understanding of the ECS role in various esophageal functions and disorders is presented.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29098187

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2017.0031

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