CBD And Cancer - What Does The Science Say?

by GregP_WN

CBD and Cancer – What Does the Science Say?

Humans have been searching for a cure for cancer for centuries. Even modern technology has only taken us so far. The newest hope is that cannabidiol, or CBD, will become the latest miracle cure that actually works.


Though the science does not yet definitively support many of the claims being made about CBD and its use as a cancer therapy, the research is bound to continue. Now that hemp production is legal by federal government dictates and states are legalizing hemp products such as CBD for retail, research has become easier to perform.

As it stands, though, most of the published research has been performed on statistically small samples or relies on the analysis of previous research. Some studies certainly show promise, but definitive results may be years away.

On the other hand, CBD is becoming well-accepted in the public conscience as a way to treat many smaller ailments, including the side effects of cancer. Legalized use of specific THC compounds to treat nausea is already available. More research is needed to determine if CBD, which is non-psychoactive, can do the job as well.

Here is an overview of the current state of CBD and cancer science.

Potential Anti-Tumor Effects of CBD

Studies in rats and mice show some evidence that cannabidiol may have some anti-tumor properties. CBD may induce cancer cell death while protecting healthy cells, inhibit cell growth, and reduce or mitigate angiogenesis invasion (the development of additional blood vessels to support tumor growth) and metastasis (tumor growth into surrounding tissues).

Molecules published research out of Israel by Namdar et al. that seems to show phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol act together with terpinoids to enhance cytotoxic (toxic to cells) activity on particular cell lines. This ability, in tandem with other research showing potential protective properties for normal cells, may be a path to future treatments that can destroy cancer cells while protecting healthy ones.

Anti-tumor effects have so far been observed in animal studies and in vitro research (cells living in a medium or “test tube”). Along with observing potential anti-tumor activity within cells in a rat or mouse body, studies show potential against xenografts, which are grafts of tissue (in this case, cancer tumors) into or onto an animal host. In this study, CBD showed positive effects against xenograft tumors with high resistance to standard chemotherapy.

Cancer Treatment Cbd

It’s possible that some form of CBD can be used to prevent the proliferation of cancer and kill tumor cells. A review of the anti-tumor potential for cannabinoids is available in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in an article by Bogdanovic et al.

Research into the Use of CBD for Specific Types of Cancer

Several studies have looked into whether cannabidiol is effective against specific cancers.

• The National Institutes of Health published a literature review that identified cannabidiol receptors in pancreatic cancer. The presence of cannabinoid receptors in cancerous tissue increases the chances of cannabidiol reaching and binding to the cells of a tumor and exciting a cytotoxic response. The literature showed in vitro and xenograft studies, but nothing on actual cancer patients to support the results.
• In January 2019, Oncotarget published research that showed inhibiting ATM kinase (ataxia telangiectaiia-mutated gene kinase) may increase or upregulate the level of cell death induced by cannabidiol along with gamma irradiation in glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.
• Gegotek et al. published a study in Cell in August 20191 that showed CBD activity in skin fibroblast models after the cells were irradiated with UV-A and UV-B. The group found differences in the cellular proteome profiles depending on the radiation type. The findings may be useful in the design of UV light protection and studies in skin cancer.
• The International Journal of Molecular Sciences published a review in March 2019 from Kiskova et al.2 that found possible relationships between CBD use and the deceleration of breast cancer tumor progression. The group thought that CBD affected the signaling pathways in the cancer cells along the G-protein coupled CB1 and CB2 receptors as well as other receptors.
• The anti-tumor properties of CBD were also observed in a study published in Biomolecules3. Zhang et al. examined the in vitro effects of CBD on a line of human gastric cancer cells. The findings supported other reports of CBD inhibiting the proliferation and colony formation of cancer cells. CBD may upregulate or increase the activity of the ATM gene and p53 protein expression while downregulating p21 protein expression, inhibiting CDK2 and cyclin E, which resulted in the arrest of the cellular life cycle. The group also saw activity with other genes and protein expression that promoted cytotoxicity and reduced proliferation.

Despite these amazing findings, it remains that there is no study which confirms or proves cancer-fighting activity of CBD in the human body. Only animal testing and in vitro research have been performed, and those results are highly preliminary.

Researching the Use of CBD to Enhance Cancer Therapy

Jeong et al.4 published their research in Cancers showing that CBD can enhance the effects of oxaliplatin, a chemotherapeutic drug for colorectal cancer. Often, patients develop resistance to this drug. If CBD can enhance the chemotherapeutic drug without damage to the human body, it may spark a change in colorectal cancer therapy strategy.

They also found CBD reduced phospho-NOS3 levels and nitric oxide (NO) production, both of which contribute to oxaliplatin resistance.

Again from the International Journal of Sciences, Mokoena et al.5 studied the impact of CBD on photodymanic therapy (PDT) for breast cancer. When combined with gold nanoparticles used in conjugated PDT, the side effects of treatment appeared reduced as did the damage to surrounding normal cells. Paired with CBD’s potential cytotoxic properties in cancer cells, a promising new line of therapy may be opened.

In breast cancer patients with diabetes, CBD may assist with insulin regulation. Some breast cancers occur in women with an overexpression of insulin receptors within the mammary gland tissue or the tumor itself. The tissues then increase the activity of insulin in the area, effectively feeding the tumor cell. CBD may inhibit the survival of breast cancer cells even in the face of excessive insulin. It may also help regulate insulin levels in diabetic patients (Bala, A and Matsabisa MG in South African Science6).

Kim et al.7 in Korea observed that CBD may enhance the therapeutic effects of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Since both CBD and TRAIL act to destroy cancer cells, synergy is achieved when both are used together, creating a more effective therapy.

Using CBD to Relieve Side Effects

There is already a history of using THC or marijuana to relieve some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, notably to relieve nausea. Now patients are trying CBD, which doesn’t carry the psychoactive properties of marijuana or THC, to achieve the same relief.

Cancer Patient

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the emetic effect brought on by chemotherapy. CBD may bind to certain receptors in the endocannabinoid system to reduce the emetic effect.

Also, since both cancer and cancer therapy can reduce a patient’s desire to eat, CBD is used to stimulate the appetite while reducing nausea. CBD is also used for pain relief, a boon to cancer patients regardless of their response to therapy.

CBD is also used to reduce anxiety and promote healthy sleep. There is no doubt that cancer patients suffer greatly from both anxiety and sleeplessness.

Cancer cachexia (CCA) is a syndrome that expresses many of the problems cancer patients face such as weight loss, anorexia, and anemia. The interaction between the host (the patient) and the tumors cause the loss of desire to eat that results in the weight loss and anemia. The syndrome may be the direct cause of up to one-quarter of cancer deaths, while 50% to 80% of cancer patients suffer from CCA.

If CBD can relieve these particular symptoms of cancer, the mortality rate may slow. If CBD is found to be effective in other ways against cancer cells, the world may have another weapon in its fight against cancer.

However, we have a long way to go before anyone can make the claim that CBD can cure cancer or prevent it. As of yet, there is no evidence that CBD can repeat its effects in the human body to the level required to successfully eradicate cancer. However, research continues, and with the legalization of hemp production, it will be easier than before to march towards success.


1Gegotek, A, et al. (2019). The Differences in the Proteome Profile of Cannabidiol-Treated Skin Fibroblasts following UVA or UVB Irradiation in 2D and 3D Cell Cultures. Cells. (8) (995). Retrieved October 30, 2019.

2Kiskova, T., et al. (2019). Future Aspects for Cannabinoids in Breast Cancer Therapy. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (20) (1673). Retrieved October 30, 2019.

3Zhang, X., et al. (2019). Cannabidiol Induces Cell Cycle Arrest and Cell Apoptosis in Human Gastric Cancer DGC-7901 Cells. Biomolecules. (9) (302). Retrieved October 30, 2019.

4Jeong, S., et al. (2019). Cannabidoil Overcomes Oxaliplatin Resistance by Enhancing NOX3- and SOD2-Induced Autophagy in Human Coloractal Cancer Cells. Cancers. (11) (781). Retrieved October 30, 2019.

5Mokoena, D., et al. (2019). Enhancing Breast Cancer Treatment Using a Combination of Cannabidiol and Gold Nanoparticles for Photodynamic Therapy. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (20) (4771). Retrieved October 30, 2019.

6Bala, A., Matsabisa MG. (2018). Possible Importance of Cannabis sativa L. in Regulation of insulin and IL-6R/MAO-A in Cancer Cell Progression and Migration of Breast Cancer Patients with Diabetes.

7Kim, JL., et al. (2019). Cannabidiol Enhances the Therapeutic Effects of TRAIL by Upregulating DR5 in Coloractal Cancer. Cancers. (11) (642). Retrieved October 30, 2019

Author bio:

Andrew Motola is the Managing Director of STOA Wellness, a boutique CBD store helping people realize the potential of CBD in maintaining their sense of self – body and mind.

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