Treating Brain Cancer with Cannabis

Treating Brain Cancer with Cannabis

Columbia University College of Physicians SurgeonsScientist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York have published a new study on the potential use of cannabinoids in the treatment of brain cancer. Doctors Ivanov, Wu and Hei at the Center for Radiological Research, have published a study in the oncology journal Oncotarget (2017 May: Abstract) – on the efficacy of using cannabinoids to facilitate the treatment of brain cancer.

senator mccain

The team studied Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), a common malignant brain tumor that is found in approximately 3 per 100,000 adults in the U.S. and Europe. Sen. John McCain has been recently diagnosed with a GBM. Sen. Ted Kennedy and Beau Biden both died from this deadly brain cancer.

GBM is an aggressive brain cancer that for a variety of reasons, is also very difficult to treat. A GBM brain tumor, by its very nature, is located behind the blood-brain barrier. This makes it difficult to target with traditional chemotherapy and immunotherapy pharmaceuticals. A GBM tumor is also highly resistant to the γ-radiation, which is often used to kill it. GBM is so resistant to γ-radiation, that the surrounding brain tissue is likely to succumb (i.e. die) to the radiation before the cancer cells.

rewire-our-brain-1024x614A principal aim of this study was to look at whether the non-toxic and non-psychotropic cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD), might enhance the outcome of γ-radiation chemotherapy treatments in patients with GBM. Scientists hoped that CBD might be used to affect the endocannabinoid signaling network of CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 and CB2 receptors are found throughout the brain, immune system and on the outside of glial cells. Unlike standard pharmaceuticals, CB1 and CB2 modulators, like CBD, are able to bypass the blood-brain barrier and directly affect brain tissue and the tumors hiding within.


lab-tubes-green and blueThe scientists in this study were extending the work of other researchers who have uncovered the surprising role for cannabinoids in the treatment of brain tumors. THC has ademonstrated ability to activate CB1 and CB2 receptors in such a way that actually induces cell death in glioblastomas and in other types of cancer. Dr. Ivanov and his team wanted to see if the cannabinoid CBD could also regulate signaling pathways in such a way to induce tumor cell death – known as CBD-induced apoptosis.

Dr. Ivanov and his team discovered that CBD did indeed increase cancer cell apoptosis. As an added benefit, CBD also reduced the deleterious effects of the radiation on healthy neurons and nervous tissue. Aside from its cancer killing properties, CBD is a known antioxidant, neuroprotectant and a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Timing is everything… The timing of when you receive your CBD dose with respect to when you receive your γ-radiation treatment appears to matter greatly in the ability of the two to kill cancer cells. In the study it was key to first take the CBD dose, and then receive the chemotherapy.

Details such as timing, dose and cannabinoid combination should be worked out with your health professional. For this reason and others, it is important to involve your physician in any decision to include marijuana in your cancer treatment plan.

The authors of the study suggested that further research is needed regarding the possibility of reducing the patient’s overall radiation exposure during treatment by supplementing γ-radiation therapy with a combination of THC and CBD. Hopefully, this will be the next phase of the team’s research into cannabinoids and their role in the treatment of brain cancers such as GBM.


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