There are several types of brain tumors. The majority of brain tumors are caused by metastases of cancer that originates elsewhere in the body. Brain tumors originate in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Glioma are the most common type of brain tumors . Much research has been done on the effect of cannabinoids (mainly THC and CBD) on gliomas. In this section, we discuss some of this research and give advice on the use of cannabinoids against glioma. Read more about cancer in general by clicking here.
The research on cannabinoids and their role in different diseases is relatively young. The molecular structure of cannabinoids wasn’t revealed until the 1960s and the first studies on the effects of cannabinoids on a molecular level were performed in the early 90s. This research has given a big boost to our knowledge of cannabinoids and their involvement in many different diseases, as is the case for cancer.
When it comes to the effects of cannabinoids on cancer, glioma are researched best. Until recently these studies have only consisted of studies on animals and cell lines in laboratories. However, the results of these studies have proved to be interesting enough to also start clinical trials (research on humans). Currently, dozens of patients with gliomas are receiving cannabinoids in combination with regular anti-cancer drugs in a Spanish study.
Thus, results of clinical studies are not yet available. But what insights have studies on cell lines and animals brought us so far? It turns out that especially THC can have an inhibitory effect on tumor growth. THC seems to have this effect in particular from acting on the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. Among other things, these receptors regulate the activity of certain proteins. In turn, these proteins have an influence on the occurrence of tumor cells and their growth. So, THC can have an inhibitory effect on gliomas, but what about that other cannabinoid, CBD? In contrast to THC, CBD only scarcely works on the receptors CB1 and CB2. Nevertheless, it is found that CBD has an inhibitory effect on tumor growth as well, although by a different mechanism. How this works is not completely clear yet, but it is suspected that the CBD has an effect on the TRPV2 receptor. Through this receptor, the cell death of glioma cells is induced .
There has also been research that studied a combination of THC and CBD and how they synergistically work against cancer. The addition of CBD was found to enhance the anti-tumor activity of THC. With the addition of CBD, it also appears that less THC is needed in order to achieve an anti-tumor effect. Finally, CBD reduces some of the undesirable effects of THC. Thereby CBD improves tolerance for THC .
Research has also been done on the combination of THC and CBD with regular anti-cancer drugs, such as temozolomide. The combination of THC and CBD with temozolomide was found to have a significant reduction in the growth of gliomas, even when low doses of THC were used .
Advice for the use of cannabinoids against brain cancer (glioma)
The results of the discussed studies are promising when it comes to the treatment of gliomas. However, the fact remains that these studies have been performed on laboratory animals and cell lines in laboratories. We know that we don’t always find the same results when these kind of studies are repeated on humans. Whether or not this is the case for THC and CBD (and possibly other cannabinoids) is something that only time can tell us when the results of clinical studies are published, in the next few years. Unfortunately, not everyone has time to wait for these studies to finish. In addition, on the internet there are many testimonials from people who attribute their cured cancer to the use of cannabis products. Because of this, you may want to try cannabinoids against cancer anyway. When you are considering this, always consult your doctor or specialist first. As we described earlier in this article, there is also evidence that cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) could improve the efficacy of certain types of chemotherapy.Click here to read more about safe use of cannabinoids.
Finally, there are still many questions as to how cannabinoids exactly work in our bodies and how they affect different types of cancer. While tumor-inhibiting effects for glioma have been found, there are also studies that have shown that cannabinoids (such as THC) can actually stimulate tumor growth in other types of cancer. In other words, it is very important to realize that cannabinoids do not necessarily have a positive effect on all types of cancer. Careful consideration is key here.
- Pertwee, R.G. (2014). Handbook on cannabis. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Torres, S., Lorente, M., Rodriquez-Fornes, F., et al. (2011). A combined preclinical therapy of cannabinoids and temozolomide against glioma. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 10:90-103.
- Not available online