Treatment with CBD

CBD oil for cancer treatment

The endocannabinoid system, cannabis compounds, and inflammation

Inflammation is a very important factor in cancer formation, growth, and metastasis. What is more, cancer cells trick the immune system into not recognizing them as foreign.

Scientists have found that CBD has anti-inflammatory (inflammation fighting) characteristics. Therefore, CBD appears to be a good candidate for cancer treatment.

Enzymes and receptors of the endocannabinoid system are present in many cells of the immune system.

  • CB2 activity increases after inflammation
  • Macrophages are most sensitive to cannabinoids
  • CBD inhibits pro-inflammatory response (i.e., immune cell activity causing inflammation response)

Several cannabis compounds have anti-inflammatory effects, including:

  • THC
  • CBD
  • Cannflavins (types of cannabis flavonoids)
  • Terpenes
CBD oil benefits for cancer
Dividing cancer cells

Inflammation and cancer, and the role of CBD

Cancer is the second most important cause of death everywhere in the world. First, healthy cells turn into pre-cancer cells due to a number of factors, such as:

  • Physical, chemical and biological carcinogens (because they act as mutating poisons)
  • Aging (because repair mechanism become less efficient as we age)
  • Unhealthy lifestyle (tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity)

Inflammation due to the above is a critical contributor to cancer, because:

  • Too much inflammation converts healthy cells into pre-cancerous forms
  • Inflammation and cancer formation have similar mechanisms, such as:
    • Increased cell division (proliferation)
    • Increased cell survival
    • Cell migration

Watch this 5:03 minute Nature video: “Tumour immunology and immunotherapy”

As such, inflammation causes cancer AND cancer causes inflammation. This means that non-normal (aberrant) cell growth and inflammation are linked to each other.

  • Inflammation overstimulates immune cell division
  • Overstimulated immune cells will act more aggressively
However, CBD calms down both cell division and aggressive cell function. The reason for this is that CBD inhibits:
  • pro-inflammatory pathways and processes (e.g. recruitment of macrophages – white blood cells that eat up invading cells – and expression of inflammatory proteins)
  • rapid cell division (or: cell proliferation)

CBD also increases the capacity of the immune system to identify cancer cells (also called “tumor immune-surveillance”).

Endocannabinoid system and cancer

Researchers have observed an increase in CB1 and CB2 receptors in a variety of cancer types.

CB1 is very abundant in:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common type of liver cancer) and in
  • Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of white blood cells)
  • Epithelial ovarian cancer (the most common type of ovarian cancer)

CB2 is overly present in:

  • Breast adenocarcinomas and
  • Gliomas (a type of brain and spinal chord tumor)

In addition, too much of both CB1 and CB2 means bad prognosis for colorectal cancer.

Cannabinoids and cancer

The synthetic THC drugs dronabinol and nabilone compliment cancer treatment (mainly chemotherapy) because they decrease the following side effects:

  • Pain
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

However, scientists are now gathering increasing evidence that the function of these cannabis-based medications is beyond “palliative” effects (that is, reducing side effects of cancer treatment). Indeed, dronabinol and nabilone might also inhibit:

  • tumor cell proliferation
  • the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) that could feed cancer cells
  • cancer cell migration, and
  • invasion of cancer cells

Moreover, these cannabis-based drugs may also increase programmed cell death (apoptosis) of cancer cells.

Watch this 6:37 minute BBC news video: “Can Cannabis oil reduce cancerous tumors?”

Cannabinoid receptor GPR55 and cancer, and the role of CBD

In addition to CB1 and CB2 receptors, there is another cannabinoid receptor that is important in cancer: GPR55. It has a large number of functions. For example, GPR55 controls:

  • the motility of the gastrointestinal tract (meaning: gut movement)
  • neuropathic pain
  • inflammatory processes
  • cell signaling processes (meaning: cell communication)
  • and many other functions in the body.

An increase in GPR55 presence and production of the body is linked to the severity and malignancy of tumors, such as:

  • pancreatic adenocarcinoma (the vast majority of pancreatic cancer)
  • skin cancer
  • lung cancer
  • lymphoblastoma

CBD binds to and decreases the function of GPR55. As such, CBD can kill cancer cells, namely through increasing:

  • autophagy (the cancer cell eating itself)
  • apoptosis (programmed cancer cell death)

and decreasing:

  • proliferation (CBD inhibits the multiplication of cancer cells)
  • invasion (CBD prevents cancer cells from moving into the neighboring tissues)
  • angiogenesis (CBD prevents the formation of new blood vessels, thereby making cancer cells starve to death)

TRPV cannabinoid receptors and cancer, and the role of CBD

TRPV 1 and 2 receptors bind to both endocannabinoids (cannabinoids naturally present in the human body) and phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids in the cannabis plant). The TRP receptors control how calcium enters cells, and thereby influence mainly:

  • body temperature perception
  • thermal pain (pain related to temperatures that are too high)
  • pain due to tissue damage
  • cell proliferation

The difference is that heat and spices activate TRPV1, while mechanical impulses activate TRPV2. CBD activates both TRPV1 and TRPV2.

Interestingly, both TRPV1 and TRPV2 can be either upregulated (meaning they work too much) or downregulated (meaning they work too little) depending on the type of cancer.

CBD acts in an intricate and complex way by harmonizing the function of TRPV1, TRPV2, CB1, and CB2 receptors. In addition, CBD synergistically (meaning: by helping the effect) increases the cytotoxic (meaning: cell killing) effect of anticancer medications. The reason is that CBD increases the anti-cancer drug uptake of the cancer cells.

Scientists still need to evaluate, though, which types of cancers can benefit from either CBD or THC or a combination of CBD and THC. Additionally, it is still a mystery how current anti-cancer treatments can be enhanced by treatment with cannabinoids.

Finally, future research has to assess cannabis compounds other than THC and CBD (such as terpenes and flavonoids) affect cancer. As such, we do not know too much about how hemp extracts with low THC and CBD concentration might fare in the fight against cancer.

Summary: Why CBD oil for cancer?

Summarizing the above, this is why using CBD oil for cancer treatment might be a promising option, because CBD:

  • inhibits cell division and aggressive cell functions
  • helps the immune system identify cancer cells
  • binds to and weakens GPR55, thereby killing cancer cells, preventing them from multiplying and spreading, and starving them to death
  • harmonizes the function of the cannabinoid receptor system (CB1, CB2, TRPV1, TRPV2, GPR55)
  • synergistically amplifies the effect of anti-cancer medications
However, scientists need to conduct more research so see what cancer types can be targeted with CBD, and how using CBD oil for cancer might help save lives.

Reference

Pellati F, Borgonetti V, Brighenti V, Biagi M, Benvenuti S, Corsi L. Cannabis sativa L. and Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoids: Their Chemistry and Role against Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Cancer. Biomed Res Int. 2018 Dec 4;2018:1691428

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