A study published this week found that mice with pancreatic cancer survive nearly three times longer if medical cannabis was added to their chemotherapy treatment. Find out what you should know about the potential use and effects of medical marijuana for pancreatic cancer patients.
NEW RESEARCH: Medicinal cannabis could improve survival rates of pancreatic cancer
The Cannabis plant has different components, it contains active ingredients called cannabinoids. One of these components is cannabidiol (CBD) which is the compound that does not make people feel ‘high’, unlike the component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which has psychoactive properties.
There has been research that shows that this part of the plant has some medical benefits, one of which is helping to stop cell growth in certain types of cancer.
The home secretary has already allowed specialist doctors in the UK to legally prescribe cannabis products and the use of cannabis for medical treatments has been approved to be used in the NHS by the end of this year.
About the study
The new study, looked at the impact of CBD on mice with the disease, receiving the common chemotherapy drug Gemcitabine .
The mice treated with this combination of drugs had a median average survival of 56 days, compared to 20 days for those left untreated, while mice receiving chemotherapy alone lived for a median 23.5 days.
The research, funded by Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, is in the very early stages and still needs to be tested in humans which is likely to take some time. However, l ead researcher of the study, Professor Marco Falasca from Queen Mary University in London, says:
“Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics, which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials. If we can reproduce these affects in humans, cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately.”
Lu Constable, Marketing and Communications Manager at Pancreatic Cancer Action says:
“Although this research is in it’s early stages, this is a really exciting and promising study. H opefully, in the future clinical trials (testing on humans) will provide insight into whether using CBD in combination with chemotherapy will help improve survival rates for pancreatic cancer patients.
We are really looking forward to seeing how this research will progress and ultimately, help pancreatic cancer patients.”
Ceridwen shares her experience with CBD oil
Ceridwen Maddock-Jones, Pancreatic Cancer Action supporter and pancreatic cancer patient, has been using Cannabis oil, she says:
“I put the paste into capsules with coconut oil and CBD oil… I also take drops of CBD and THC oil under my tongue.
CBD is thought to stop the progression of cancer and THC kills cancer cells, so taking the two together will hopefully offer maximum benefit, while the small doses throughout the day keeps them in my system.”
About pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is the UK’s fifth biggest cancer killer and is set to become one of the UKs top 4 cancer killers by 2026.
The 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is less than 7% in the UK, this is the worst survival rate of any 22 common cancers. This could partly be due to the fact that pancreatic cancer can be resilient to some chemotherapy.
Currently, there is no early detection test for pancreatic cancer and the only cure is surgery with chemotherapy. Surgery is only possible if it is found early enough. Click here to read our blog Is pancreatic cancer curable?
Pancreatic Cancer Action’s primary focus is to improve early diagnosis. We do this by raising awareness amongst the public, providing free resources to healthcare professionals and funding early diagnosis research.
Marijuana and Pancreatic Cancer: 5 Things to Know
Cancer patients have reported finding pain relief and appetite stimulation from the use of medical marijuana, also known as cannabis. In fact, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s (PanCAN) Patient Services, which provides free, in-depth and personalized resources and information about pancreatic cancer, has received many questions about the use and effects of medical marijuana. For example, how is marijuana derived and how can it be used by cancer patients?
Marijuana is a plant that contains substances called cannabinoids. The cannabinoids found in marijuana plants may help treat the symptoms and side effects caused by cancer and cancer treatments. In addition to the naturally occurring cannabinoids found in marijuana plants, cannabinoid drugs have been developed in laboratories for use in helping to treat side effects and symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments.
The use of marijuana and cannabinoid drugs for medicinal purposes, such as controlling pain and stimulating appetite in cancer patients, have been and continue to be studied in the lab and in clinics. Consequently, conflicting information has been reported in clinical studies using cannabinoids as pain relievers or appetite stimulants for cancer patients.
Some studies have reported that patients regained appetite and sense of taste, while others reported cannabinoids are no more helpful than other prescription appetite stimulant medications. Likewise, some studies about pain relief report promising results, while others have shown cannabinoids are no more helpful than prescription medications for controlling pain.
This map shows U.S. states and territories where marijuana is legal for medical purposes.
(Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.)
It is important for patients to speak with their doctor to determine if marijuana would be helpful in their fight against pancreatic cancer. According to Anne-Marie Duliege, MD, PanCAN’s Chief Medical Officer, “Since there has not been sufficient data generated yet to produce consistent clinical results about the benefits of medical marijuana for patients, we encourage patients to discuss problems such as pain and appetite stimulation with their doctor to determine the right medications to help control such issues.”
Patient Services often receives questions about how medical marijuana can be used when fighting pancreatic cancer. Here are five things to know:
- What is marijuana? Marijuana is a plant grown in many parts of the world that makes resin-containing compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, meaning they act on the brain to change mood or consciousness.
- In which states is medical marijuana legal? 36 states and four territories have some type of legal medical marijuana program. Find out if it is legal in your state.
- What are the active ingredients? The main active cannabinoid in marijuana is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which may relieve pain, lower inflammation, and decrease anxiety without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.
- How can medical marijuana be administered? Cannabinoids are available in a variety of formats. They can be taken by mouth as capsules, sprayed under the tongue, inhaled, used topically, or included as an ingredient in food and eaten.
- Has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved marijuana for cancer use? No, but the FDA has approved two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting prevention or treatment.
Contact Patient Services with any questions about cannabis or any other topics related to pancreatic cancer, or visit the National Cancer Institute online for additional information.