Striking lung cancer response to self-administration of cannabidiol: A case report and literature review
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In spite of new drugs, lung cancer is associated with a very poor prognosis. While targeted therapies are improving outcomes, it is not uncommon for many patients to have only a partial response, and relapse during follow-up. Thus, new drugs or re-evaluation of existing therapies used to treat other non-malignant diseases (drug repurposing) are still needed. While this research both in vitro and in vivo is being carried out, it is important to be attentive to patients where the disease responds to treatments not considered standard in clinical practice. We report here a patient with adenocarcinoma of the lung who, after declining chemotherapy and radiotherapy, presented with tumour response following self-administration of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound present in Cannabis sativa. Prior work has shown that cannabidiol may have anti-neoplastic properties and enhance the immune response to cancer. The data presented here indicate that cannabidiol might have led to a striking response in a patient with lung cancer.
The quest to improve the prognosis of lung cancer has led to the development and evaluation of new drugs with mechanisms of action that differ from those of conventional chemotherapy drugs used for many years worldwide. Great effort is now being placed in developing and assessing the potential of targeted therapies and immunotherapy in lung cancer which are leading to improved clinical outcomes. 1 Thus, targeted therapy is replacing conventional chemotherapy as standard treatment for patients with targetable oncogenic drivers. 2 However, it has to be acknowledged that responses to these agents are still partial with tumours recurring during follow-up. In fact, due to tumours’ genetic heterogeneity, a complete response in lung cancer patients is very difficult to achieve. 2
The challenge to improve the outcome of patients with lung cancer is leading to the evaluation of alternative drugs which, alone or in combination, may lead to improved response and survival in patients with lung cancer. Therefore, further development of new drugs or even established therapies previously used to treat non-malignant diseases (drug repurposing) which could have shown an effect on lung cancer in vitro and/or in vivo are worth pursuing.
One possible example is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound from Cannabis sativa. CBD, which has been used in the management of several non-oncological pathologies, 3 could be a potential drug in the treatment of cancer. CBD has been shown to have anti-neoplastic effects in vitro and/or in vivo in lung cancer 4 –9 and other types of cancer. 10,11 However, although work is needed to better understand the mechanism/s of action of CBD both in vitro and in vivo, it is worth identifying any possible cases of patients with lung cancer whose disease responds to this drug. On this basis, we present here the case of a lung cancer patient whose tumour markedly responded to CBD.
In October 2016, an 81-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presented to his general practitioner with a 3-week history of increasing breathlessness but no cough. A chest radiograph identified a shadow in the lower zone in the left lung, and subsequent CT scan confirmed the presence of a 2.5 × 2.5 cm mass in the lower left lung and multiple mediastinal lymph nodes ( Figure 1(a) and ( (b)). b )). The patient underwent an endobronchial ultrasound guided biopsy of the paratracheal lymph nodes which revealed lung adenocarcinoma (T1c N3 M0). Tumour cells were strongly positive for CK7, thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) and with moderate focal expression of estrogen receptor (ER). They were negative for CK20, S100, PSA, CD56, synaptophysin and chromogranin. The tumour was negative for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) mutations.
CT scan image at diagnosis: (a) irregular rounded tumour seen in the periphery of left lower lobe, and (b) prominent multiple scattered mediastinal lymph nodes.
His previous medical history was COPD, diet controlled diabetes, and cancer of the prostate treated with radical prostatectomy in 2004 and in remission. He was not on regular medication and had no history of drug allergies. He was a retired salesman. There was no previous history of asbestos exposure. He was an ex-smoker (around 18 cigarettes daily for around 15 years) having stopped smoking 45 years ago. His ECOG performance status was 1. Physical examination was unremarkable.
The patient was offered chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but he declined as he was in his 80s and did not want any treatment that could adversely affect his quality of life. The decision was made to follow the patient up but without active treatment.
A CT scan in December 2016 showed that the lung mass had increased in size to 2.7 × 2.8 cm though the mediastinal and left hilar lymph nodes had not changed in size. The patient was offered treatment but again declined. A chest X-ray in July 2017 showed progressive changes in the left lower zone but no significant collapse or effusion evident. The patient had a further CT scan in November 2017 which revealed near total resolution of the left lower lobe mass with only a small area of residual spiculated soft tissue remaining (1.3 × 0.6 cm) and a significant reduction in size and number of mediastinal lymph nodes ( Figure 2(a) and ( (b)). b )). The patient underwent another CT scan in January 2018 which showed stable appearances of the small residual opacity in the left lower lobe and mediastinal lymph nodes.
CT Scan image following the patient taking CBD: (a) marked regression of the left lower lobe mass leaving a small irregular residual linear band, and (b) striking regression of the mediastinal lymph nodes.
On further questioning, the patient stated that he had started taking CBD (“MyCBD”) oil 2% (200 mg CBD in 10 mL) from the beginning of September 2017. He took two drops (0.06 mL, 1.32 mg CBD) twice daily for a week and then nine drops (0.3 mL, 6 mg CBD) twice daily until the end of September. Following the November 2017 CT scan, the patient started taking nine drops twice daily but had to stop around a week later. The reason behind this was that the patient did not like the taste and caused him slight nausea. He was never physically sick. There were no other changes in the patient’s diet, medication or lifestyle from September 2017. Informed written consent was obtained from the patient.
The data presented here may indicate that CBD led to a partial tumour response in a patient with histologically proven adenocarcinoma of the lung. Various possible mechanisms of action leading to this objective response might be postulated.
It has been described that CBD can act on tumour cells, directly or indirectly, through different pathways and that these effects might vary in different tumour cells. CBD acts as an inverse agonist for CB2 receptor and an antagonist for CB1 receptor. 12 However, CBD has low affinity to either CB1 or CB2 receptors. 9 In addition, CBD has anti-cancer effects acting as an agonist for the transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV) 1 and 2 leading to changes in intracellular Ca 2+ levels. 5,13
It is also reported that CBD can induce apoptosis in cancer cells via the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), caspase activation 4,13,14 and activation of p53 dependent apoptotic pathways in cancer cells 14,15 and down-regulation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and cyclin D1. 16 CBD can also upregulate TNF/TNFR1 and TRAIL/TRAIL-R2 signalling by modulation of both ligand and receptor levels followed by apoptosis. 14 Furthermore, CBD inhibits human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) endothelial cells migration, invasion and sprouting in vitro, and angiogenesis in vivo through down-modulation of several angiogenesis-related molecules. 17
From the immunological point of view, CBD signiﬁcantly inhibits the recruitment of tumour-associated macrophages (TAM) in primary tumour stroma and secondary lung metastases. 12 CBD enhanced the susceptibility of cancer cells to adhere to and subsequently be lysed by Lymphokine-Activated Killer (LAK) cells, with both effects being reversed by a neutralizing ICAM-1 antibody. 9
Based on these data, it is clear that several factors may have been involved in this patient’s response to CBD. However, although significantly lower potency in non-malignant cells has been described, 18 the effects of CBD on non-malignant cells has yet to be fully assessed.
In summary, the data presented here indicate that CBD may have had a role in the striking response in a patient with histologically proven adenocarcinoma of the lung as a result of self-administration of CBD oil for a month and in the absence of any other identifiable lifestyle, drug or dietary changes. Further work is needed both in vitro and in vivo to better evaluate the various mechanisms of action of CBD on malignant cells, and its potential application in the treatment of not only lung cancer but also other malignancies.
Declaration of conflicting interests: The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Ethical approval: Our institution does not require ethical approval for reporting individual cases or case series.
Funding: The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Informed consent: The patient described herein had given consent to the use of de-identified patient data for use in research and education. Written informed consent was obtained from the patient for his anonymized information to be published in this article.
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CBD Oil for Lung Cancer: Is Cannabis A Potential Treatment?
Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer in the U.S. Sadly, it is estimated that more than 130,000 Americans will succumb to lung cancer in 2021.
Traditional treatments are widely regarded as being extremely difficult and painful to undergo. This fact, combined with the deadly threat posed by cancer, has contributed to a surge in research into new therapies and treatments for cancer worldwide.
One such area in treating cancer is the promising use of CBD oil. Several research studies have provided insight that using CBD oil may help prevent cancer growth. While more research is needed in this area, CBD oil is already being used to help manage the symptoms of cancer and the adverse health effects of various cancer treatments.
Are All Cannabis Oils the Same?
There are many different types of cannabis oils:
CBD Oil. This oil is nonpsychoactive, meaning that it will not produce any feeling of being “high.” This is due to the fact that CBD oil doesn’t contain THC, which is the compound responsible for giving users such a sensation. CBD is valued for its many health benefits, which include easing pain, anxiety, and the side effects of going through chemotherapy.
There are three main types of CBD oil:
- Broad-spectrum CBD oil
- Full-spectrum CBD oil
- CBD oil derived from CBD isolate
Hemp Seed Oil. Hemp is a plant that is very similar to cannabis, with the key difference being that it does not contain THC or other important cannabinoids. Hemp seed oil is mainly used in skincare products or as a cooking oil.
Marijuana-derived oil. This type of oil is made from dried marijuana buds and leaves. As a result, it has a higher ratio of THC than other types of cannabis oils like CBD oil or hemp-derived oil.
Rick Simpson Oil. This type of oil features high levels of THC with a varying CBD content depending on the formulation.
For Health and Safety, Choose CBD Oil
When you’re looking for health benefits, it is CBD you want to emphasize when choosing a cannabis oil. Broad-spectrum CBD oil does not contain any THC, whereas full-spectrum CBD oil will have some THC present — but not more than 0.3%. CBD oil made from isolate involves a process of extracting all compounds from the cannabis plant. This process produces pure CBD in a crystal form which may be ground into a powder so that products are more convenient for consumption.
Can You Use CBD Oil to Treat Cancer?
There has been a push for research on whether CBD oil can help cure cancer. To date, there are many reports that CBD has helped people in dealing with this disease. But most of these reports are anecdotal evidence rather than scientific research. There isn’t any way to confirm the reliability of these stories or whether other treatments may have contributed to these positive experiences.
Most of the scientific research is still in its early stages in exploring whether CBD use is an effective cancer treatment. But there have been some positive findings.
A 2019 study found that CBD and cannabis extracts may cause the death of cancerous cells and may enhance the efficacy of radiation treatment. Other studies have also found that CBD in conjunction with THC may improve the effectiveness of radiation treatment in patients.
A specific case was reported in 2019 concerning a man with lung cancer. He declined traditional treatments and opted for the use of CBD oil instead. His tumor seemed to react favorably to CBD oil treatment.
But it is too early to definitively declare that CBD has any positive effects on preventing or treating lung cancer.
However, there are other areas in which the use of CBD oil can help people cope with lung cancer.
Does the Use of CBD Oil Help with Cancer Symptoms?
It is difficult to say whether CBD oil can help in cancer treatment, given that there is limited research in this area. However, there are various research findings that suggest CBD use can be extremely valuable for patients dealing with cancer and cancer treatments.
Cancer treatment typically involves chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Both of these treatment options take a heavy toll on the human body.
The use of CBD oil can help with various side effects of lung cancer treatment, including:
- Reduced appetite
CBD has been found to provide relief from chronic pain. This benefit of CBD use can be extremely valuable for cancer patients undergoing intense chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Nausea is another common side effect of cancer treatment options. CBD has been found to lower the symptoms of nausea resulting from chemotherapy.
Does CBD Oil Use Come with any Side Effects?
CBD oil is generally safe to take. When using CBD, the side effects are predominantly mild and may include:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
Like any compound, CBD oil may interact with any medication you are currently taking. As a precaution, you should consult with your doctor if you are considering using CBD while already taking prescription medication.
How Is CBD Oil Used?
Products infused with CBD generally fall into one of four categories that depend on the way they are used.
There are many benefits to consuming CBD, which may help explain why there are so many options to choose from on the market today. Ingesting these products means that the CBD passes through your digestive system and gets metabolized by your liver. This enables the CBD you ingest to be provided all over your body over a period of a few hours.
Products in this category include capsules, tinctures, or drops and can be added to food or mix with coffee or tea.
Alternatively, you can take CBD oil using a sublingual method. This involves placing a few drops of CBD oil under your tongue and holding it there for up to 60 seconds. This method allows the important compounds to be quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and dispersed throughout your body.
To reduce any inflammation or relieve the pain you may experience, look for topical CBD products as they work the best. They give you the flexibility to apply them directly to whichever parts of your body need some relief. Topical CBD products include salves, shampoos, lip balms, creams, patches, suppositories, personal lubricants, and bath salts.
Another popular way to take CBD is to inhale its vapors using vape carts and pens. This way, CBD enters your bloodstream quickly through your lungs and avoids the digestive system altogether. In particular, vaping has been growing in popularity with CBD use due to its ease of use and variety of flavors and options.
For CBD use with lung cancer, it is important to discuss your options with your doctor. This is particularly important for inhaling CBD.
Where Can I Buy CBD Oil?
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabis products are legal, theoretically, at the federal level as long as they contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC. As a result, many dispensaries and stores now carry a wide selection of CBD oils and other products.
If you prefer the many advantages of online shopping for your CBD oil, you have countless options to choose from. But keep in mind that CBD oils, for the most part, are largely unregulated. Therefore, you need to guarantee that your product is safe and effective.
According to a recent study, less than one in three CBD products that were sold online had a correct label, with many of these products having less CBD content than advertised or had a significant concentration of THC.
So be sure to carefully research the company and its products before buying.
Key Takeaways on Using CBD Oil for Lung Cancer
There isn’t enough research to declare that CBD oil is effective as a treatment option for cancer. However, CBD may be able to offer some relief from the side effects of traditional treatments and from the symptoms of cancer.
It is a good idea to continue following the advice of your health care provider, even if your CBD oil seems to be giving you positive effects. Otherwise, stopping ongoing procedures could make future treatments more difficult and negatively impact your ability to treat tumors.
CBD oil is a promising ally in your battle with lung cancer. As more research becomes available, CBD oil may prove to be a viable treatment for your health needs.
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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
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Daily use of cannabidiol (‘CBD’) oil may be linked to lung cancer regression
It may be worth exploring further the use of cannabidiol (‘CBD’) oil as a potential lung cancer treatment, suggest doctors in BMJ Case Reports after dealing with a daily user whose lung tumour shrank without the aid of conventional treatment.
The body’s own endocannabinoids are involved in various processes, including nerve function, emotion, energy metabolism, pain and inflammation, sleep and immune function.
Chemically similar to these endocannabinoids, cannabinoids can interact with signalling pathways in cells, including cancer cells. They have been studied for use as a primary cancer treatment, but the results have been inconsistent.
Lung cancer remains the second most common cancer in the UK. Despite treatment advances, survival rates remain low at around 15% five years after diagnosis. And average survival without treatment is around 7 months.
The report authors describe the case of a woman in her 80s, diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. She also had mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure, for which she was taking various drugs.
She was a smoker, getting through around a pack plus of cigarettes every week (68 packs/year).
Her tumour was 41 mm in size at diagnosis, with no evidence of local or further spread, so was suitable for conventional treatment of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. But the woman refused treatment, so was placed under ‘watch and wait’ monitoring, which included regular CT scans every 3-6 months.
These showed that the tumour was progressively shrinking, reducing in size from 41 mm in June 2018 to 10 mm by February 2021, equal to an overall 76% reduction in maximum diameter, averaging 2.4% a month, say the report authors.
When contacted in 2019 to discuss her progress, the woman revealed that she had been taking CBD oil as an alternative self-treatment for her lung cancer since August 2018, shortly after her original diagnosis.
She had done so on the advice of a relative, after witnessing her husband struggle with the side effects of radiotherapy. She said she consistently took 0.5 ml of the oil, usually three times a day, but sometimes twice.
The supplier had advised that the main active ingredients were Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at 19.5%, cannabidiol at around 20%, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) at around 24%.
The supplier also advised that hot food or drinks should be avoided when taking the oil as she might otherwise feel stoned. The woman said she had reduced appetite since taking the oil but had no other obvious ‘side effects’. There were no other changes to her prescribed meds, diet, or lifestyle. And she continued to smoke throughout.
This is just one case report, with only one other similar case reported, caution the authors. And it’s not clear which of the CBD oil ingredients might have been helpful.
“We are unable to confirm the full ingredients of the CBD oil that the patient was taking or to provide information on which of the ingredient(s) may be contributing to the observed tumour regression,” they point out.
And they emphasise: “Although there appears to be a relationship between the intake of CBD oil and the observed tumour regression, we are unable to conclusively confirm that the tumour regression is due to the patient taking CBD oil.”
Cannabis has a long ‘medicinal’ history in modern medicine, having been first introduced in 1842 for its analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and anticonvulsant effects. And it is widely believed that cannabinoids can help people with chronic pain, anxiety and sleep disorders; cannabinoids are also used in palliative care, the authors add.
“More research is needed to identify the actual mechanism of action, administration pathways, safe dosages, its effects on different types of cancer and any potential adverse side effects when using cannabinoids,” they conclude.
Notes for editors
Please note: out of respect for patient confidentiality we don’t have the names or contact details of the cases reported in this journal.
Funding: None declared
Link to Academy of Medical Sciences labelling system
Externally peer reviewed? Yes
Evidence type: Single case report