Medical Cannabis Might Provide New Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

New research suggests that a major component of the cannabis plant could help to extend the lives of patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

The research comes out of Queen Mary University, in London, where scientists have found that mice who are undergoing chemotherapy for the disease could survive nearly three times longer if they received cannabis extract cannabidiol (CBD) than those who were only undergoing chemotherapy, alone.

Lead researcher Professor Marco Falasca called this discovery “a remarkable result.”

More specifically, the mice who were treated with this drug combination were found to have a median survival average of 56 days, which is significantly higher than the 20 days for those who went untreated.  The mice who received only chemotherapy were found to live for a median of 23.5 days.

It is important to distinguish that CBD is only one of the major components of cannabis.  Most people are more familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which has a psychoactive effect: it is what makes you feel “high” or “stoned.”

The good news, as Professor Falasca attests: “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 effects in humans, cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately, compared to having to wait for authorities to approve a new drug.”

He also adds: “The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years because there are very few, and mostly only palliative care, treatments available. Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than seven percent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed.”

Obviously, pancreatic cancer has one of the worst outcomes of any cancer type in the world. More importantly, very little progress (if any) has been made in treating it since survival rates have not changed much in the last 40 years.

Finally, NHS consultant oncologist and Institute of Cancer Research scientist (UK) Dr. Chiara Braconi comments, “Pancreatic cancer is one of the most hard-to-treat cancers, and new treatments are urgently needed. While the results look promising, there are still a number of important unknowns. We don’t know how cannabinoids will interact with other drugs, including chemotherapies, in people.”