Medical Cannabis Use in Palliative Care: Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines – An Update [Internet].

Cover of Medical Cannabis Use in Palliative Care: Review of Clinical Effectiveness and Guidelines – An Update“Palliative care is defined by the World Health Organization as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness…”. The last days and hours of a person’s life can be associated with immense physical as well as emotional suffering Relief of pain and other distressing symptoms, and enhancement of quality of life, are among the essential elements of good palliative care. Palliative care could benefit an estimated 69% to 82% of dying individuals in Canada. As Canada’s population ages, with increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and treatments resulting in prolonged life, it is expected that there will be an increased need for palliative care services.

Approximately 9% of Canadians (or 2.7 million) reported using cannabis for medical purposes in the first half of 2019. Herbal cannabis (cannabis sativa) contains hundreds of pharmacological components, many of which are not well-characterized. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most prevalent pharmacologically active compound and is primarily responsible for the psychoactive and physical effects of cannabis. Cannabidiol (also commonly referred to as CBD) is the second most prevalent. It has very little if any psychotropic effects. Quantity and ratio of these and other components can vary considerably between plants and even within the same plant.

Two prescription cannabinoids are currently marketed in Canada: Nabiximols (Sativex) which contains THC and cannabidiol, and Nabilone (Cesamet) which is a synthetic cannabinoid. Dronabinol (Marinol), synthetic THC, was withdrawn from the Canadian market however it is available in other jurisdictions. For the purposes of this report, medical cannabis refers to use of the cannabis plant or its extracts or synthetic cannabinoids for medical purposes.

Medical cannabis may be of value for a number of conditions, including but not limited to pain, nausea and vomiting, depression, anxiety and appetite stimulation. Adverse effects of cannabis are very common, developing in 80% to 90% of patients. These include but are not limited to psychiatric disturbances, sedation, speech disorders, impaired memory, dizziness, ataxia, addiction, irritability, and driving impairment. Risk of adverse effects is likely lower with cannabidiol alone as compared to THC. The potential for drug interactions is also an important concern. These risks must be considered along with the an apparent lack of evidence surrounding effectiveness of medical cannabis in many conditions for which its use is promoted.

This report updates and expands on a previous summary of abstracts report.9 The objective of the report is to review evidence and guidelines for use of medical cannabis in the palliative care setting.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31873991

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551867/

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Oral medicinal cannabinoids to relieve symptom burden in the palliative care of patients with advanced cancer: a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomised clinical trial of efficacy and safety of cannabidiol (CBD).

 

Image result for bmc palliative care“Despite improvements in medical care, patients with advanced cancer still experience substantial symptom distress. There is increasing interest in the use of medicinal cannabinoids, but there is little high quality evidence to guide clinicians. This study aims to define the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in the management of symptom burden in patients with advanced cancer undergoing standard palliative care.

METHODS AND DESIGN:

This study is a multicentre, randomised, placebo controlled, two arm, parallel trial of escalating doses of oral CBD. It will compare efficacy and safety outcomes of a titrated dose of CBD (100 mg/mL formulation, dose range 50 mg to 600 mg per day) against placebo. There is a 2-week patient determined titration phase, using escalating doses of CBD or placebo to reach a dose that achieves symptom relief with tolerable side effects. This is then followed by a further 2-week assessment period on the stable dose determined in collaboration with clinicians.

DISCUSSION:

A major strength of this study is that it will target symptom burden as a whole, rather than just individual symptoms, in an attempt to describe the general improvement in wellbeing previously reported by some patients in open label, non controlled trials of medicinal cannabis. Randomisation with placebo is essential because of the well-documented over reporting of benefit in uncontrolled trials and high placebo response rates in cancer pain trials. This will be the first placebo controlled clinical trial to evaluate rigorously the efficacy, safety and acceptability of CBD for symptom relief in advanced cancer patients. This study will provide the medical community with evidence to present to patients wishing to access medicinal cannabis for their cancer related symptoms.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31810437

https://bmcpalliatcare.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12904-019-0494-6

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Perception of Benefits and Harms of Medical Cannabis among Seriously Ill Patients in an Outpatient Palliative Care Practice.

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“Patients with serious illness often have pain, uncontrolled symptoms, and poor quality of life. Evidence continues to evolve regarding the role of cannabis to treat chronic pain, nausea, and anorexia. Little is known about how patients with serious illness perceive its benefits and harms. Given that an increasing number of clinicians across the United States are treating patients with medical cannabis, it is important for providers to understand patient beliefs about this modality. We assessed patient perceptions of benefits and harms of cannabis who obtained a medical cannabis card within an ambulatory palliative care (APC) practice.

Results: All 101 patients invited to participate completed the survey. A majority had cancer (76%) and were married (61%), disabled or retired (75%), older than 50 years of age (64%), and men (56%). Most patients ingested (61%) or vaporized (49%) cannabis products. A majority of respondents perceived cannabis to be important for their pain (96%) management. They reported that side effects were minimally bothersome, and drowsiness was the most commonly reported bothersome harm (28%). A minority of patients reported cannabis withdrawal symptoms (19%) and concerns for dependency (14%). The majority of patients were using concurrent prescription opioids (65%). Furthermore, a majority of cancer patients reported cannabis as being important for cancer cure (59%).

Conclusion: Patients living with serious illnesses who use cannabis in the context of a multidisciplinary APC practice use cannabis for curative intent and for pain and symptom control. Patients reported improved pain, other symptoms, and a sense of well-being with few reported harms.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31539298

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jpm.2019.0211

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Emerging role of cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoid receptor 1/cannabinoid receptor 2 receptor agonists in cancer treatment and chemotherapy-associated cancer management

Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics“Cannabis was extensively utilized for its medicinal properties till the 19th century. A steep decline in its medicinal usage was observed later due to its emergence as an illegal recreational drug.

Advances in technology and scientific findings led to the discovery of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound of cannabis, that further led to the discovery of endogenous cannabinoids system consisting of G-protein-coupled receptors – cannabinoid receptor 1 and cannabinoid receptor 2 along with their ligands, mainly anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol.  Endocannabinoid (EC) is shown to be a modulator not only for physiological functions but also for the immune system, endocrine network, and central nervous system.

Medicinal research and meta-data analysis over the last few decades have shown a significant potential for both THC and cannabidiol (CBD) to exert palliative effects. People suffering from many forms of advanced stages of cancers undergo chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting followed by severe and chronic neuropathic pain and weight loss.

THC and CBD exhibit effective analgesic, anxiolytic, and appetite-stimulating effect on patients suffering from cancer. Drugs currently available in the market to treat such chemotherapy-induced cancer-related ailments are Sativex (GW Pharmaceutical), Dronabinol (Unimed Pharmaceuticals), and Nabilone (Valeant Pharmaceuticals).

Apart from exerting palliative effects, THC also shows promising role in the treatment of cancer growth, neurodegenerative diseases (multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease), and alcohol addiction and hence should be exploited for potential benefits.

The current review discusses the nature and role of CB receptors, specific applications of cannabinoids, and major studies that have assessed the role of cannabinoids in cancer management.

Specific targeting of cannabinoid receptors can be used to manage severe side effects during chemotherapy, palliative care, and overall cancer management. Furthermore, research evidences on cannabinoids have suggested tumor inhibiting and suppressing properties which warrant reconsidering legality of the substance.

Studies on CB1 and CB2 receptors, in case of cancers, have demonstrated the psychoactive constituents of cannabinoids to be potent against tumor growth.

Interestingly, studies have also shown that activation of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors by their respective synthetic agonists tends to limit human cancer cell growth, suggesting the role of the endocannabinoid system as a novel target for treatment of cancers.

Further explorations are required to exploit cannabinoids for an effective cancer management.”

http://www.cancerjournal.net/preprintarticle.asp?id=263538

“Could Cannabis Kill Cancer Cells? A New Study Looks Promising”  https://www.portlandmercury.com/blogtown/2019/08/15/26977361/could-cannabis-kill-cancer-cells-a-new-study-looks-promising

“Study Reviews How Marijuana Compounds Inhibit Tumor Growth And Kill Cancer Cells” https://www.marijuanamoment.net/study-reviews-how-marijuana-compounds-inhibit-tumor-growth-and-kill-cancer-cells/

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Cannabinoid Signaling in Cancer.

“The family of chemical structures that interact with a cannabinoid receptor are broadly termed cannabinoids. Traditionally known for their psychotropic effects and their use as palliative medicine in cancer, cannabinoids are very versatile and are known to interact with several orphan receptors besides cannabinoid receptors (CBR) in the body. Recent studies have shown that several key pathways involved in cell growth, differentiation and, even metabolism and apoptosis crosstalk with cannabinoid signaling. Several of these pathways including AKT, EGFR, and mTOR are known to contribute to tumor development and metastasis, and cannabinoids may reverse their effects, thereby by inducing apoptosis, autophagy and modulating the immune system. In this book chapter, we explore how cannabinoids regulate diverse signaling mechanisms in cancer and immune cells within the tumor microenvironment and whether they impart a therapeutic effect. We also provide some important insight into the role of cannabinoids in cellular and whole body metabolism in the context of tumor inhibition. Finally, we highlight recent and ongoing clinical trials that include cannabinoids as a therapeutic strategy and several combinational approaches towards novel therapeutic opportunities in several invasive cancer conditions.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31332734

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-030-21737-2_4

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Antitumor Cannabinoid Chemotypes: Structural Insights.

Image result for frontiers in pharmacology“Cannabis has long been known to limit or prevent nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, and pain. For this reason, cannabinoids have been successfully used in the treatment of some of the unwanted side effects caused by cancer chemotherapy.

Besides their palliative effects, research from the past two decades has demonstrated their promising potential as antitumor agents in a wide variety of tumors.

Cannabinoids of endogenous, phytogenic, and synthetic nature have been shown to impact the proliferation of cancer through the modulation of different proteins involved in the endocannabinoid system such as the G protein-coupled receptors CB1, CB2, and GRP55, the ionotropic receptor TRPV1, or the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).

In this article, we aim to structurally classify the antitumor cannabinoid chemotypes described so far according to their targets and types of cancer. In a drug discovery approach, their in silico pharmacokinetic profile has been evaluated in order to identify appropriate drug-like profiles, which should be taken into account for further progress toward the clinic.

This analysis may provide structural insights into the selection of specific cannabinoid scaffolds for the development of antitumor drugs for the treatment of particular types of cancer.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31214034

“The first report on the antitumor activity of phytocannabinoids was published over four decades ago. During these last years, significant research has been focused on the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids to manage palliative effects in cancer patients. Besides such palliative applications, some cannabinoids have shown anticancer properties. Since inflammation is a common risk factor for cancer, and some cannabinoids have shown anti-inflammatory properties, they could play a role in chemoprevention.” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.00621/full
“Antitumor effects of THC.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11097557
“Antitumor effects of cannabidiol” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14617682
“Anti-tumour actions of cannabinoids.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30019449
“Extensive preclinical research has demonstrated that cannabinoids, the active ingredients of Cannabis sativa, trigger antitumor responses in different models of cancer.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29940172
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The Endocannabinoid System as a Target in Cancer Diseases: Are We There Yet?

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“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been placed in the anti-cancer spotlight in the last decade. The immense data load published on its dual role in both tumorigenesis and inhibition of tumor growth and metastatic spread has transformed the cannabinoid receptors CB1 (CB1R) and CB2 (CB2R), and other members of the endocannabinoid-like system, into attractive new targets for the treatment of various cancer subtypes.

Although the clinical use of cannabinoids has been extensively documented in the palliative setting, clinical trials on their application as anti-cancer drugs are still ongoing. As drug repurposing is significantly faster and more economical than de novo introduction of a new drug into the clinic, there is hope that the existing pharmacokinetic and safety data on the ECS ligands will contribute to their successful translation into oncological healthcare.

CB1R and CB2R are members of a large family of membrane proteins called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). GPCRs can form homodimers, heterodimers and higher order oligomers with other GPCRs or non-GPCRs. Currently, several CB1R and CB2R-containing heteromers have been reported and, in cancer cells, CB2R form heteromers with the G protein-coupled chemokine receptor CXCR4, the G protein-coupled receptor 55 (GPR55) and the tyrosine kinase receptor (TKR) human V-Erb-B2 Avian Erythroblastic Leukemia Viral Oncogene Homolog 2 (HER2).

These protein complexes possess unique pharmacological and signaling properties, and their modulation might affect the antitumoral activity of the ECS. This review will explore the potential of the endocannabinoid network in the anti-cancer setting as well as the clinical and ethical pitfalls behind it, and will develop on the value of cannabinoid receptor heteromers as potential new targets for anti-cancer therapies and as prognostic biomarkers.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31024307

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.00339/full

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Future Aspects for Cannabinoids in Breast Cancer Therapy.

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“Cannabinoids (CBs) from Cannabis sativa provide relief for tumor-associated symptoms (including nausea, anorexia, and neuropathic pain) in the palliative treatment of cancer patients.

Additionally, they may decelerate tumor progression in breast cancer patients.

Indeed, the psychoactive delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and other CBs inhibited disease progression in breast cancer models.

The effects of CBs on signaling pathways in cancer cells are conferred via G-protein coupled CB-receptors (CB-Rs), CB1-R and CB2-R, but also via other receptors, and in a receptor-independent way.

THC is a partial agonist for CB1-R and CB2-R; CBD is an inverse agonist for both.

In breast cancer, CB1-R expression is moderate, but CB2-R expression is high, which is related to tumor aggressiveness. CBs block cell cycle progression and cell growth and induce cancer cell apoptosis by inhibiting constitutive active pro-oncogenic signaling pathways, such as the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase pathway.

They reduce angiogenesis and tumor metastasis in animal breast cancer models. CBs are not only active against estrogen receptor-positive, but also against estrogen-resistant breast cancer cells. In human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive and triple-negative breast cancer cells, blocking protein kinase B- and cyclooxygenase-2 signaling via CB2-R prevents tumor progression and metastasis.

Furthermore, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), including tamoxifen, bind to CB-Rs; this process may contribute to the growth inhibitory effect of SERMs in cancer cells lacking the estrogen receptor.

In summary, CBs are already administered to breast cancer patients at advanced stages of the disease, but they might also be effective at earlier stages to decelerate tumor progression.”

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Novel Approaches for Treating Pain in Children.

Logo SpringerLink“Good pain management in children, especially those at end of life, is a crucial component of palliative medicine. The current review assesses some of the new and/or innovative ways to manage pain in children. The article focuses on some recent medications/pharmaceutical options such as cannabinoids and also innovative ways to administer medication to children, such as intranasal and inhalation.

RECENT FINDINGS:

Current approaches to pain management now include (1) new uses of old drugs such as ketamine and lidocaine, (2) use of new drugs/medications such as cannabinoids, and (3) creative use of old technology such as atomizers, intranasal drops, and inhalation. Typically, novel approaches to care rarely start in pediatrics or palliative care. The current review has presented some new and old drugs being utilized in new and old ways.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30714078

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11912-019-0766-6

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Prospects for the Use of Cannabinoids in Oncology and Palliative Care Practice: A Review of the Evidence.

 cancers-logo“There is an increased interest in the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of symptoms in cancer and palliative care patients. Their multimodal action, in spite of limited efficacy, may make them an attractive alternative, particularly in patients with multiple concomitant symptoms of mild and moderate intensity. There is evidence to indicate cannabis in the treatment of pain, spasticity, seizures, sleep disorders, nausea and vomiting, and Tourette syndrome. Although the effectiveness of cannabinoids is limited, it was confirmed in neuropathic pain management and combination with opioids. A relatively favorable adverse effects profile, including no depressive effect on the respiratory system, may make cannabis complement a rather narrow armamentarium that is in the disposition of a palliative care professional.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30678303

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6694/11/2/129

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