Could cannabis help cure brain cancer?

Yep, it’s true: Cannabis could be the key to brain cancer treatment. A new British study has found that using cannabis alongside radiotherapy can cause cancerous brain tumours to shrink to the point that they’re no longer an issue.

Researchers from St George’s, University of London used two of the most potent cannabinoids, the active part of the plant, in their experiments – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). In animal tests, they compared the results of no treatment, treatment with cannabinoids alone, treatment with radiation alone, and treatment with both cannabinoids and radiation. The latter gave the best, most dramatic results. ‘In some cases, the tumours effectively disappeared,’ says Dr Wai Liu, the project’s lead researcher.

Finding an effective treatment for brain cancer is a priority for research because the disease is usually fatal, with a survival rate of just 10% five years after diagnosis. As we’ve reported in the past, scientists are working on a range of possible treatment options, some of them very high-tech, including tiny gold balls and of course, nanovesicles.

But these results, the first time radiation and cannabinoids have been tested together, also offer some hope. According to Dr Liu, ‘The benefits of the cannabis plant elements were known before but the drastic reduction of brain cancers if used with irradiation is something new and may well prove promising for patients who are in gravely serious situations with such cancers in the future.’

The researchers, who’ve just published their findings in the Molecular Cancer Therapeutics journal, are now working to make human trials a reality.

Image via M a n u e l’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

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