Cannabis, CBD oil and cancer
Cannabis is a plant and a class B drug. It affects people differently. It can make you feel relaxed and chilled but it can also make you feel sick, affect your memory and make you feel lethargic. CBD oil is a chemical found in cannabis.
- Cannabis has been used for centuries recreationally and as a medicine.
- It is illegal to possess or supply cannabis as it is a class B drug.
- Research is looking at the substances in cannabis to see if it might help treat cancer.
- There are anti sickness medicines that contain man-made substances of cannabis.
What are cannabis and cannabinoids?
Cannabis is a plant. It is known by many names including marijuana, weed, hemp, grass, pot, dope, ganja and hash.
The plant produces a resin that contains a number of substances or chemicals. These are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids can have medicinal effects on the body.
The main cannabinoids are:
- Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
THC is a psychoactive substance that can create a ‘high’ feeling. It can affect how your brain works, changing your mood and how you feel.
CBD is a cannabinoid that may relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without the psychoactive ‘high’ effect of THC.
Different types of cannabis have differing amounts of these and other chemicals in them. This means they can have different effects on the body.
Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK. This means that it is illegal to have it, sell it or buy it.
CBD oil, cannabis oil and hemp oil
There are different types of oil made from parts of the cannabis plant. Some are sold legally in health food stores as a food supplement. Other types of oil are illegal.
CBD oil comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant and does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. It can be sold in the UK as a food supplement but not as a medicine. There is no evidence to support its use as a medicine.
Cannabis oil comes from the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. Cannabis oil often contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.
Hemp oil comes from the seeds of a type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain the main psychoactive ingredient THC. Hemp seed oil is used for various purposes including as a protein supplement for food, a wood varnish and an ingredient in soaps.
Why people with cancer use it
Cannabis has been used medicinally and recreationally for hundreds of years.
There has been a lot of interest into whether cannabinoids might be useful as a cancer treatment. The scientific research done so far has been laboratory research, with mixed results, so we do not know if cannabinoids can treat cancer in people.
Results have shown that different cannabinoids can:
- cause cell death
- block cell growth
- stop the development of blood vessels – needed for tumours to grow
- reduce inflammation
- reduce the ability of cancers to spread
Scientists also discovered that cannabinoids can:
- sometimes encourage cancer cells to grow
- cause damage to blood vessels
Cannabinoids have helped with sickness and pain in some people.
This means a cannabis based product used to relieve symptoms.
Some cannabis based products are available on prescription as medicinal cannabis. The following medicines are sometimes prescribed to help relieve symptoms.
Nabilone is a drug developed from cannabis. It is licensed for treating severe sickness from chemotherapy that is not controlled by other anti sickness drugs. It is a capsule that you swallow whole.
Sativex is a cannabis-based medicine. It is licensed in the UK for people with Multiple Sclerosis muscle spasticity that hasn’t improved with other treatments. Sativex is a liquid that you spray into your mouth.
Researchers are looking into Sativex as a treatment for cancer related symptoms and for certain types of cancer.
How you have it
Cannabis products can be smoked, vaporized, ingested (eating or drinking), absorbed through the skin (in a patch) or as a cream or spray.
CBD oil comes as a liquid or in capsules.
Prescription drugs such as Nabilone can cause side effects. This can include:
- increased heart rate
- blood pressure problems
- mood changes
- memory problems
Cannabis that contains high levels of THC can cause panic attacks, hallucinations and paranoia.
There are also many cannabis based products available online without a prescription. The quality of these products can vary. It is impossible to know what substances they might contain. They could potentially be harmful to your health and may be illegal.
Research into cannabinoids and cancer
We need more research to know if cannabis or the chemicals in it can treat cancer.
Clinical trials need to be done in large numbers where some patients have the drug and some don’t. Then you can compare how well the treatment works.
Many of the studies done so far have been small and in the laboratory. There have been a few studies involving people with cancer.
Sativex and temozolomide for a brain tumour (glioblastoma) that has come back
In 2021, scientists reported the final results of a phase 1 study to treat people with recurrent glioblastoma (a type of brain tumour that has come back). The study looked at Sativex in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.
Researchers found that adding Sativex caused side effects, which included, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and headache but patients found the side effects manageable.
They also observed that 83 out of 100 people (83%) were alive after one year using Sativex, compared to 44 out of 100 people (44%) taking the placebo.
However, this phase 1 study only involved 27 patients, which was too small to learn about any potential benefits of Sativex. The study wanted to find out if Sativex and temozolomide was safe to take by patients.
Researchers have now started a larger phase 2 trial called ARISTOCRAT, to find out if this treatment is effective and who might benefit from it. Speak to your specialist if you want to take part in a clinical trial.
Sativex and cancer pain
There are trials looking at whether Sativex can help with cancer pain that has not responded to other painkillers.
The results of one trial showed that Sativex did not improve pain levels. You can read the results of the trial on our clinical trials website.
Cancer and nausea and vomiting
A cannabis based medicine, Nabilone, is a treatment for nausea and vomiting.
A Cochrane review in 2015 looked at all the research available looking into cannabis based medicine as a treatment for nausea and sickness in people having chemotherapy for cancer. It reported that many of the studies were too small or not well run to be able to say how well these medicines work. They say that they may be useful if all other medicines are not working.
A drug called dexanabinol which is a man made form of a chemical similar to that found in cannabis has been trialled in a phase 1 trial. This is an early trial that tries to work out whether or not the drug works in humans, what the correct dose is and what the side effects might be. The results are not available yet. You can read about the trial on our clinical trials database.
Word of caution
Cannabis is a class B drug and illegal in the UK.
There are internet scams where people offer to sell cannabis preparations to people with cancer. There is no knowing what the ingredients are in these products and they could harm your health.
Some of these scammers trick cancer patients into buying ‘cannabis oil’ which they then never receive.
You could talk with your cancer specialist about the possibility of joining a clinical trial. Trials can give access to new drugs in a safe and monitored environment.
The science blog on our website has more information about cannabis and cancer.
CBD Oil for Leukemia: Benefits, Effects & How to Use
Did you know that cannabis compounds like THC and CBD may alleviate the symptoms of cancer — and even kill the malignant cells while protecting the healthy ones?
The anti-cancer benefits of cannabis have been regularly demonstrated in laboratory conditions, on animal models, and in preclinical human trials. Not only do cannabinoids produce therapeutic effects on tumors, but they also help mitigate certain side effects of conventional treatments (e.g. chemotherapy and radiation).
It’s no wonder why so many people are turning to CBD for different types of cancer, including leukemia, the so-called silent killer. How exactly does CBD help leukemia patients? Can you use it on its own or only as an adjunctive treatment?
In this article, we explain the mechanism of action and cover the recent studies regarding CBD and leukemia.
Benefits of CBD for Leukemia
CBD oil has a dense nutritional content that may help ease the symptoms of leukemia among other health conditions. Full-spectrum hemp extracts contain particularly high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, and essential fatty acids on top of terpenes, terpenoids, and minerals. All these compounds may promote optimal health.
CBD might also have anti-cancer effects that have the potential to stop the growth of malignant cells. However, it’s important to remember that there’s a lack of clinical trials in this area, and the majority of the research comes from animal models and human case reports.
That being said, below we outline some of the ways in which CBD might be useful for leukemia.
CBD Triggers Apoptosis in Cancer Cells
Apoptosis is a process where the body naturally destroys harmful cells to help maintain homeostasis. As mentioned in the previous sections, leukemia results from the abnormal production of immature white blood cells that stuff the lymphatic system and the blood, making it difficult for other types of essential blood cells to grow.
Studies have found that CBD oil packs potent anti-cancer properties that may help reduce the rate at which the malignant cells spread. Moreover, CBD signals the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce more of its therapeutic messengers (endocannabinoids) to restore the state of homeostasis. Through apoptosis, CBD is able to eliminate cancer cells in human leukemia (1).
Cannabinoids also interact with the CB2 receptors that are widely present in the immune system. This interaction helps the body distinguish between useful and detrimental cells. It also triggers ceramide and sphingolipid synthesis, triggering the death of unhealthy cells (2).
CBD’s affinity with CB2 receptors may also help produce immunomodulatory effects, optimizing the activity of the immune system. Researchers have highlighted CBD as an antitumorigenic agent that inhibits the reproduction of cancer cells (3). Doing so enables it to control the number of leukemia-affected cells and makes space for the growth of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
CBD Helps Nourish Healthy Cells
As mentioned above, CBD may be a good source of essential nutrients required for healthy cell development (4). These include terpenoids, flavonoids, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and proteins. Consuming a full-spectrum CBD extract suspended in a carrier fat like MCT oil may increase your intake of many of these compounds.
Nutrients, especially amino acids and vitamins, are paramount for the formation of healthy blood cells. According to various health experts and medical researchers, increasing the bioavailability of these high-quality nutrients may decrease the chance of cell mutation while keeping the healthy cells protected against damage.
Considering the above, CBD oil may be able to lay the ground for healthy white cell production by creating the right environment for them to thrive.
Studies have also found that CBD may be useful in relieving the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, including:
- Inflammation and pain
- Insomnia and sleep deprivation
What to Know About Leukemia?
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects white blood cells. It starts to develop in the bone marrow, where it causes abnormal growth of these cells, mutating and multiplying in number. White blood cells regulate the performance of the immune system by fighting disease-causing bacteria.
Leukemia causes kind of a chain reaction in the body. The excess white cells are under-developed and thus serve no purpose in the body. However, abnormal production disrupts the growth of other important blood cells, such as platelets, red blood cells, etc. A lower red blood count (RBC) can further put a person’s health at risk since red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen, food nutrients, and other vital components to various parts of the body.
Researchers haven’t yet identified the cause of leukemia, but there are several factors that can spur its development, including:
- Poor diet
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Genetic burden
According to statistics, more than 75% of reported leukemia cases refer to children.
Types of Leukemia
There are several types of leukemia depending on the type of white blood cells affected and the rate at which it deteriorates.
The four major types of leukemia are:
- Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML)
- Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)
Below we share a brief overview of each.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
AML triggers the body to produce too many white blood cells known as myelocytes. Leukemia starts building up in your bone marrow and blood, leaving less space for the healthy blood cells. The symptoms of AML include infections, anemia, and easy bleeding. AML is more common in men than in women. It also affects kids, but the prevalence of AML increases with age.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
ALL stimulates the excess production of lymphocytes. These white blood cells can’t fight infection effectively, building up in your bone marrow and blood, reducing the room for your healthy blood cells. Similar to AML, this type of leukemia may cause easy bleeding, anemia, and infections. ALL typically shows up and worsens in a very short time span.
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML)
CML causes the same symptoms as AML and ALL. It deteriorates slowly and affects more men than women. CML is most common in adults over 50s; it rarely affects children.
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
This is the chronic form of ALL and involves the same reaction as the other leukemia types. It commonly affects adults in their 60s and over. Women are less likely to develop CLL than men. Patients with CLL are more exposed to infections due to a poorly functioning immune system.
Symptoms of Leukemia
- Bone pain
- Easy bruising
- Easy bleeding
- Enlarged spleen
- Feeling full or bloated
- Fever and chills
- Frequent infections
- Night sweats
- Physical weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen or enlarged gums
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Unusual pallor
- Weight loss
Current Treatments & Their Side Effects
Before recommending a treatment protocol for leukemia, doctors run several examinations to diagnose the condition. Usually, a complete blood count and tissue biopsy from your bone marrow are performed.
Treatments for leukemia vary from radiation to chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant; each of them is effective to some extent, but it also has side effects that can cause the patient to feel more miserable than cancer itself. They may cause severe pain, nausea, depression, loss of appetite, disrupt your sleep, and trigger anxiety.
Common leukemia treatments include:
- Chemotherapy – chemo is the go-to treatment for many types of cancer, including leukemia. It uses chemicals that kill leukemia cells and can be administered in one dose or as a mixture of drugs depending on what type of leukemia you’re struggling with. Chemotherapy may come as an injection or a pill.
- Biological Therapy – this form of treatment helps your immune system identify leukemia cells and eliminate them. Side effects of biological therapy include fever, chills, fatigue, changes in blood pressure, and overall weakness.
- Targeted Therapy – targeted therapies are aimed to attack specific cancer cell cultures. For instance, Gleevec, a commonly used targeted therapy, inhibits protein action in leukemia cells when you suffer from chronic myelogenous leukemia. There’s a risk of side effects such as high blood pressure, skin problems, and gastrointestinal perforation.
- Radiation Therapy – radiation uses high-energy beams like X-rays that destroy leukemia cells and prevent further proliferation of cancer. Your doctor may recommend radiation over your entire body or just a specific area if there’s a higher concentration of leukemia cells. The doctor may apply radiation therapy before a stem cell transplant to prepare you for the surgery.
- Stem Cell Transplant – this procedure replaces unhealthy bone marrow with a healthy one. Patients receive a high dose of radiation therapy or chemotherapy before their stem cell transplant to remove unhealthy bone marrow. An infusion with stem cells is then applied to form blood that rebuilds the bone marrow.
Are There Any Risks & Side Effects of Using CBD for Leukemia?
CBD is an acknowledged adaptogenic compound with minimal side effects. Many international health agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), have reported that CBD is well tolerable in humans, even in doses as high as 1,500 daily over the course of several weeks. When taken in regular doses, CBD oil doesn’t have adverse reactions. However, large doses may cause the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Appetite fluctuation
CBD-induced drug interaction is another concern for patients with leukemia. CBD inhibits the activity of the cytochrome p450, a system of enzymes that metabolize active ingredients in medications. If you take any medication that has a grapefruit warning on it, you probably shouldn’t take it along with CBD oil. Consult a doctor to reduce the likelihood of such events.
How to Use CBD for Leukemia?
CBD comes in many different forms. Its potential to reduce the symptoms of various health conditions can make it challenging to find the right delivery method. Here we highlight some of the most common methods of consuming CBD for leukemia:
- CBD Oil – CBD oil is a sublingual product that involves putting the CBD extract under the tongue and allowing it to stay for up to 60 seconds before swallowing. The sublingual route of administration allows the CBD to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. It is considered the most effective way of delivering CBD into the system of all methods that avoid inhalation. Sublingual CBD comes in three types of products: oil drops, tinctures, and sprays.
- CBD Capsules – oral products like capsules are the most popular form of CBD among on-the-go users. If you live a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to measure out your doses with a dropper — but instead prefer a fixed dose of CBD per serving — capsules are a decent alternative to oils. CBD capsules are also odorless and tasteless, so you don’t have to deal with the botanical aftertaste. However, since capsules need to pass through the digestive system, they act slower than oils, usually within 40–90 minutes after application.
- CBD Edibles – CBD is infused into a lot of foods and drinks nowadays. You can choose between gummies, honey sticks, protein bars, chocolates, and beverages like tea or coffee. Edibles offer the most enjoyable way to consume CBD, but similar to capsules, they have a delayed onset and may lose some of their potency on their way to the bloodstream due to the first-pass metabolism in the liver.
- CBD Vapes – vaporized CBD reaches your system through inhalation. Once you pull the CBD vapor into your lungs, it will absorb into the bloodstream through the lung tissue, ensuring fast-acting effects and high availability for the body. The vape pen heats the CBD liquid to the point where it releases cannabinoid-rich vapor, avoiding combustion. The effects of vaporized CBD are usually felt within minutes, but they have the shortest duration, up to 3–4 hours.
- CBD Topicals – when you apply CBD topically, it interacts with the cannabinoid receptors that are located in the skin’s epidermis layer. From there, it produces its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, contributing to less pain in leukemia patients. Topicals are available as creams, balms, gels, lotions, and salves; their absorption rate and duration of effects vary depending on the formulation. People commonly use them for skincare, but some people also claim to find relief from painful flare-ups during leukemia.
CBD Dosage for Leukemia
Dosing CBD is a tricky job for several reasons.
First, everybody is different; your age, gender, weight, metabolism, eating habits, and severity of your leukemia symptoms will all influence your effective dosage range. According to some researchers, a low dose of CBD ranges from less than 1 mg to 50 mg/kg/day.
The good news is that you can’t fatally overdose on CBD, so experimenting with different doses isn’t a risky business. Nevertheless, if you want to make sure you’re not wasting too much CBD, we recommend that you start low and slow. Start with 10 mg of CBD twice daily and observe the effects for one week. If you don’t feel any difference in your symptoms, increase the dosage, and continue for the next few days. Adjust the dose until you find the one that works for you.
If you’re thinking of adding CBD oil to your anti-leukemia regime, consult this idea with a holistic doctor experienced in cannabis use. Doing so will help you determine the effective dose and avoid the aforementioned CBD-drug interactions.
Summarizing the use of CBD for Leukemia
CBD may be an effective treatment for the symptoms and side-effects of leukemia and its conventional treatments as it also gives an anti-nausea effect. CBD and other cannabinoids are also useful in many other types of cancer. However, the subject is still under-researched when it comes to human trials, so doctors don’t recommend using CBD as a replacement for leukemia therapy.
When browsing through different CBD products, make sure to choose a high-quality CBD oil from a reputable brand. Despite the boom in CBD and cannabis in general, the market remains unregulated due to the particular classification of hemp-derived CBD as health supplements. Be sure to talk to your physician for professional advice regarding the consumption method, CBD dosage, and potential contraindications.
- McKallip, Robert J et al. “Cannabidiol-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells: A novel role of cannabidiol in the regulation of p22phox and Nox4 expression.” Molecular pharmacology vol. 70,3 (2006): 897-908. doi:10.1124/mol.106.023937
- Nichols, James M, and Barbara L F Kaplan. “Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research vol. 5,1 12-31. 27 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1089/can.2018.0073
- Scott, Katherine A et al. “Anticancer effects of phytocannabinoids used with chemotherapy in leukemia cells can be improved by altering the sequence of their administration.” International journal of oncology vol. 51,1 (2017): 369-377. doi:10.3892/ijo.2017.4022
- Pagano, Stefano et al. “Biological effects of Cannabidiol on normal human healthy cell populations: Systematic review of the literature.” Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedicine & pharmacotherapies vol. 132 (2020): 110728. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2020.110728
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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Cbd oil for aml
Medical marijuana often comes in the form of tinctures and CBD hemp salves, which relieve pain and migraine. New research shows, however, that cannabis’ use goes beyond easing pain; it can also help treat rare forms of cancer.
Dr. Henry Lowe, a world-renown Jamaican scientist, is leading the research on cannabis as an oncological treatment. He founded Flavocure, a Baltimore-based company that develops treatments for different types of cancer. One of their recent discoveries is cannabis’ potential to treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer. According to Flavocure, the development of AML treatments have shown no progress for decades.
So, Dr. Lowe and his team developed a cannabis-derived drug that could curb AML figures and mitigate the pain experienced by AML patients worldwide.
A Look into AML
AML starts in the bone marrow, the inner part of the bones that develops new blood cells. Instead of creating healthy cells, the bone marrow of an AML patient creates abnormal myeloblasts (a type of white blood cell), red blood cells, and platelets. Collectively, these abnormal blood cells are called leukemia cells.
Leukemia cells consume all the space and energy reserved for healthy cells. As a result, the number of healthy cells drops, and the patient becomes more vulnerable to infections, bleeding, or anemia. Worse, the leukemia cells can travel around the body via blood vessels, spreading the cancer to the central nervous system, gums, and skin. AML is the type of cancer that quickly worsens if it isn’t detected and addressed immediately.
It’s also the most common type of acute leukemia among adults. Overall, it accounts for about 1.2% of all new cancer cases. In 2016, authorities registered an estimated 19, 950 new cases. Estimated deaths in the same year are over 10,430 — about 1.8% of all cancer deaths in the US.
Given its prevalence, Dr. Lowe is determined to develop a cannabis-derived treatment for the disease.
Developments by Flavocure
Flavocure’s research targets FLT3 mutations in cells. It has been detected in up to 35% of AML patients and has since become the target of treatments for AML.
In 2017, the research by Dr. Lowe and his team paid off. Cresorol, the drug they had developed from cannabis, was granted the “Orphan Drug” designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is in line with the Orphan Drug Act, which supports the development of drugs for rare diseases (those affecting fewer than 200,000 patients in the US). This drug designation entitles Cresorol to several benefits, like a faster approval process, tax credits, eligibility for orphan drug grants, and exemption from certain fees.
As of January 2019, Cresorol is in pre-phase 1 studies. The University of Maryland School of Medicine contributes heavily to the development of the research. Dr. Lowe says that this has the potential to generate US$250 million in just three years.
The patient community hopes for favorable results so that the drug can be commercially available in the next few years. Current research progress might also open the doors to cannabis research for other types of cancer.
Dr. Lowe’s work goes to show that medical marijuana shows promise in providing relief for different kinds of diseases. Get in touch today to inquire about the medical cannabis products we offer.