While cannabinoids are already used to relieve pain and nausea in cancer patients, CBD is now showing promise as a drug to treat the actual cancer and not just relieve the side effects of treatment.

These benefits result from the interaction between CBD and the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for helping regulate vital bodily functions and advance the communication between bodily systems. While there are many physiological pathways that CBD may follow to fight and prevent cancer, the ones currently being studied most include:

Inhibiting cancer cell growth (Angiogenesis)

One attribute of cancer that makes it so deadly is its ability to spread throughout the body. But CBD may be able to slow down this progression.

When tumors become metastatic and spread to other parts of the body, they cannot grow past the size of around 2mm before needing increased blood flow from angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) to grow larger. CBD can interfere with a tumor’s ability to stimulate angiogenesis and thus limits tumor growth.

Studies suggest that CBD interferes with cancer cell angiogenesis by reducing certain molecules released by tumors that stimulate angiogenesis. Further evidence is suggestive that CBD also inhibits the ability of some types of tumors to release compounds that encourage cancer cells to migrate to other parts of the body, which interferes with the metastatic process.

Additionally, CBD has also been shown to reduce the development of certain mutated proteins that promote the growth of cancer cells. One such protein, IDH-1 (isocitrate dehydrogenase-1), is present in many types of cancerous tissues such as brain tumors or gliomas, and cancerous tissues that exhibit this mutation have been shown to respond to CBD use by slowing growth.

CBD weakens angiogenesis

CBD has been shown to weaken Angiogenesis, a process that increases blood vessel growth and blood flow to the tumor site. Because tumors need an increased blood supply to grow, this weakening may help to prevent or slow cancer cell growth.

Inducing cancer cell death (Apoptosis)

One of the main ways that chemotherapy works is by inducing apoptosis, or cell death, of cancer cells. Of course, many of the chemotherapy drugs used for cancer cell apoptosis are notorious for their side effects, including hair loss, nausea, and vomiting. Recent studies suggest that CBD can be used to induce apoptosis in certain cancerous tissues, while reducing the side effects of chemotherapy.

CBD has already been demonstrated to be particularly potent in treating prostate and colon cancer through apoptosis. Other research has shown that, while some cancer cells may be killed via CBD treatment, non-cancerous cells may not be targeted at all – a distinction that is more difficult using conventional chemotherapy.
CBD induces apoptosis

Italian investigators described CBD as “the most efficacious inducer of apoptosis” in prostate cancer. Ditto for cannabidiol and colon cancer, according to British researchers at Lancaster University.

Other Benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD)

  • CBD has shown promising activity against a wide range of tumor cell types in pre-clinical models, and may prove useful in a comprehensive approach to the management of multiple types of cancer.
  • CBD acts synergistically with various anti-cancer pharmaceuticals, enhancing their impact while cutting the toxic dosage necessary for maximum effect.
  • CBD may also be beneficial in helping to reduce anxiety, insomnia, pain, and other side effects of cancer treatment.

The future of cancer treatment

In addition to using CBD and other cannabinoids to manage the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment, CBD may soon be joining the cocktail of drugs used to actively prevent cancer from spreading and kill cancerous cells. Although further research is needed before CBD is widely accepted as part of the standard treatment, current research shows that CBD use has significant anti-cancer potential both on its own and in combination with currently accepted drug regimes.

Watch our recent webinar: CBD, Phytocannabinoids, and Cancer. What We Know.

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