Cannabis Health Search

Various forms of cancer and cannabis science

Cannabis Science and Research on Various Cancers

Undated - News - Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer.

2013 - Letter ~ Endocannabinoid signaling in cancer: a rather complex puzzle

2013 - Study ~ Modulating the endocannabinoid system in human health and disease: successes and failures

2013 - Study ~ Harnessing the genome for characterization of G-protein coupled receptors in cancer pathogenesis

2013 - Study ~ Direct modulation of the outer mitochondrial membrane channel, voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1) by cannabidiol: a novel mechanism for cannabinoid-induced cell death.

2013 - Study ~ The Endocannabinoid System and Sex Steroid Hormone-Dependent Cancers

2013 - Study ~ Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug

2013 - Study - Critical appraisal of the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer management

2013 - Study ~ Effects of cannabinoids and related fatty acids upon the viability of P19 embryonal carcinoma cells

2013 - Study ~ The pseudokinase tribbles homologue-3 plays a crucial role in cannabinoid anticancer action

2013 - Study ~ The endocannabinoid signaling system in cancer.

2013 - Study ~ Cytotoxic effect of Efavirenz is selective against cancer cells and associated with the cannabinoid system.

2013 - Study ~ A new strategy to block tumor angiogenesis by inhibiting endocannabinoid inactivation

2013 - Study ~ Preparation and characterization of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol-loaded biodegradable polymeric microparticles and their antitumoral efficacy on cancer cell lines.

2013 - Study ~ Orphan G protein receptor GPR55 as an emerging target in cancer therapy and management.

2013 - Study ~ Therapeutic potential of monoacylglycerol lipase inhibitors.

2013 - Study ~ Therapeutic potential of cannabinoid medicines

2013 - Study ~ Autophagy triggered by magnolol derivative negatively regulates angiogenesis.

2013 - News ~ "Miracle" Cannabis Oil: May Treat Cancer, But Money and the Law Stand in the Way of Finding Out.

2013 - News ~ Federal Government Reports Marijuana Effective in Combatting Certain Cancers Reports ADSI

2013 - News ~ 4 Examples of Alternative Cancer Therapies

2013 - News ~ Hemp Could Free Us From Oil, Prevent Deforestation, Cure Cancer and It’s Environmentally Friendly – So Why Is It Illegal?

2013 - News ~ Still Believe Nature Got It Wrong? Top 10 Health Benefits of Marijuana

2013 - News ~ Fighting Cancer: Another Study Reveals the Cannabis and Cancer Link

2013 - News ~ New Study: THC May Treat Inflammatory Diseases and Cancer By Altering Genes

2013 - News ~ 20 Medical Studies That Prove Cannabis Can Cure Cancer

2013 - News ~ Study shows non-hallucinogenic cannabinoids are effective anti-cancer drugs

2013 - News ~ New Study Proves Cannabinoids Have Cancer Fighting Properties

2012 - Study ~ Role of Lipid Rafts/Caveolae in the Anticancer Effect of Endocannabinoids.

2012 - Study ~ Arachidonoyl ethanolamide (AEA)-induced apoptosis is mediated by J-series prostaglandins and is enhanced by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) blockade.

2012 - Study ~ Nabiximols for Opioid-Treated Cancer Patients With Poorly-Controlled Chronic Pain: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Graded-Dose Trial.


2012 - Study ~ Poly-ε-caprolactone microspheres as a drug delivery system for cannabinoid administration: Development, characterization and in vitro evaluation of their antitumoral efficacy.

2012 - Study ~ Cannabinoid-associated cell death mechanisms in tumor models (Review).

2012 - Study ~ A potential role for GPR55 in gastrointestinal functions.

2012 - Study ~ Cannabinoids and omega-3/6 endocannabinoids as cell death and anticancer modulators.

2012 - Study ~ Towards the use of cannabinoids as antitumour agents

2012 - News ~ Cannabinoid Shown Effective as Adjuvant Analgesic for Cancer Pain.

2012 - News ~ Cannabinoid therapy helps provide effective analgesia for cancer patients with pain.

2012 - News ~ Marijuana And Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancer

2012 - News ~ Can marijuana stop cancer?

2012 - News ~ Cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer – the evidence so far

2012 - News ~ Cannabinoid formulation benefits opioid-refractory pain

2012 - News ~ 5 Marijuana Compounds That Could Help Combat Cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinsons (If Only They Were Legal)

2011 - Study ~ Phytocannabinoids for use in the treatment of cancer - Patent GB2478595 (A) ― 2011-09-14.

2011 - Study ~ Update on the endocannabinoid system as an anticancer target.

2011- Study ~ Intrathecal Administration of the Cannabinoid 2 Receptor Agonist JWH015 Can Attenuate Cancer Pain and Decrease mRNA Expression of the 2B Subunit of N-Methyl-d-Aspartic Acid.

2011 - Study ~ The endocannabinoid system and cancer: therapeutic implication.

2011 - Study ~ Arachidonoyl ethanolamide (AEA)-induced apoptosis is mediated by J-series prostaglandins and is enhanced by fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) blockade.

2011 - Study ~ Effects of cannabinoids and cannabinoid-enriched Cannabis extracts on TRP channels and endocannabinoid metabolic enzymes.

2011 - News ~ Medical Reasons for Marijuana.

2011 - News ~ Ingredient in cannabis restores taste for cancer patients.

2011 - News ~ How Does Marijuana Help Cancer Patients?

2011 - News ~ Worth Repeating: You Can’t Censor Cannabis Cancer Treatment.

2011 - News ~ The Positive Uses of Marijuana for Cancer Patients.

2011 - News ~ The Illegal Herb that Fights Cancer.

2011 - News ~ Another Study Confirms Anti-Cancer Effects of THC and CBD.

2011 - News ~ Why doesn’t marijuana cause cancer?

2010 - Study ~ NEW USE FOR CANNABINOID-CONTAINING PLANT EXTRACTS Patent application number: 20100249223.

2010 - Study ~ US Patent Application 20100204312 - METHODS AND COMPOSITIONS FOR TREATING CANCER.

2010 - Study ~ Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain.

2010 - Study ~ Targeting the Endocannabinoid System for the Treatment of Cancer - A Practical View.

2010 - Study ~ Cannabis-derived substances in cancer therapy--an emerging anti-inflammatory role for the cannabinoids.

2010 - Study ~ Antitumorigenic Effects of Cannabinoids beyond Apoptosis.

2010 - Study ~ Cannabidiol inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1.

2010 - News ~ Vets use hemp seed oil on animals with cancer.

2010 - News ~ Cannabis Rx: Cutting Through the Misinformation : Dr. Andrew Weil.

2009 - Study - Cannabinoid receptor ligands as potential anticancer agents-high hopes for new therapies?

2009 - Study - Cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer.

2009 - Study - Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents.

2009 - Study - A Population-Based Case-Control Study of Marijuana Use and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

2009 - Study ~ Changes in the Endocannabinoid System May Give Insight into new and Effective Treatments for Cancer.

2009 - Study ~ Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs.

2009 - Study ~ TRB3 links ER stress to autophagy in cannabinoid antitumoral action.

2009 - Study ~ Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents.

2009 - Study ~ Hexahydrocannabinols, novel synthetic cannabinoid derivatives, suppress the tumor growth by inhibiting the VEGF secretion and angiogenesis.

2009 - Study ~ A Population-Based Case-Control Study of Marijuana Use and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

2009 - News ~ Cannabis Compounds have "Palliative" and "Curative" Effects on Cancer.

2009 - News ~ Medical Marijuana and Cancer.

2009 - News - Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?

2008 - Study - Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise.

2008 - Study ~ Hypothesizing that marijuana smokers are at a significantly lower risk of carcinogenicity relative to tobacco-non-marijuana smokers: evidenced based on statistical reevaluation of current literature.

2008 - Study ~ Endocannabinoids in endocrine and related tumors.

2008 - Study ~ Nabilone for the treatment of paraneoplastic night sweats: a report of four cases.

2008 -News ~ Science: Nabilone effective in the treatment of night sweats of four patients with advanced cancer.

2008 - News - Marijuana May Prevent Cancer, Not Cause It.

2008 -News ~ Cannabis Smoke and Cancer: Assessing the Risk.

2007 - Study - A Cannabinoid Anticancer Quinone, HU-331, Is More Potent and Less Cardiotoxic Than Doxorubicin: A Comparative in Vivo Study.

2007 - Study ~ Inhibition of Cancer Cell Invasion by Cannabinoids via Increased Expression of Tissue Inhibitor of Matrix Metalloproteinases-1.

2007 - Study ~ Sativex: Fact Sheet.

2007 - Study ~ A cannabinoid agonist differentially attenuates deep tissue hyperalgesia in animal models of cancer and inflammatory muscle pain.

2007 - Study ~ Antiangiogenic activity of the endocannabinoid anandamide: correlation to its tumor-suppressor efficacy.

2007 - Review ~ Endocannabinoids as emerging suppressors of angiogenesis and tumor invasion.

2007 - Letter ~ Sativex: Health Care Professional letter.

2007 - News ~ Science: The use of cannabis does not influence the efficacy of two anti-cancer drugs, a clinical study finds.

2007 - News ~ No Decrease in Pulmonary Function Associated with Long-Term Cannabis Smoking, Study Says.

2007 - News ~ Nabilone relieves many advanced Ca symptoms.

2007 - News ~ Cannabinoids May Inhibit Cancer Cell Invasion.

2007 - News ~ Marijuana could suppress Tumor Cell Growth.

2006 - Study - Nabilone improves pain and symptom management.

2006 - Study - Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in treating patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome: a multicenter, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial from the Cannabis-In-Cachexia-Study-Group.

2006 - Study - Cannabinoids and cancer: pros and cons of an antitumour strategy.

2006 - Study ~ Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancers: Results of a Population-Based Case-Control Study.

2006 - Study ~ The stress-regulated protein p8 mediates cannabinoid-induced apoptosis of tumor cells.

2006 - Study ~ Cannabinoids As Cancer Hope.

2006 - Study ~ The synthetic cannabinoid nabilone improves pain and symptom management in cancer patients.

2006 - Study ~ Different views on the association between cannabinoids and cancer.

2006 - News - Marijuana Smoking Found Non-Carcinogenic.

2006 - News ~ Cannabinoids Halt Pancreatic Cancer, Breast Cancer Growth, Studies Say.

2005 - Study - Derivatives of cannabis for anti-cancer treatment.

2005 - Study ~ Medicinal Cannabis in Oncology Practice: Still a Bridge Too Far?

2005 - Study ~ Involvement of Cannabinoids in Cellular Proliferation.

2004 - News - Cancer Killer.

2004 - News - Cannabis May Help Combat Cancer-causing Herpes Viruses.

2004 - News ~ THC in marijuana may block the spread of forms of cancer causing herpes viruses.

2003 - Study ~ Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents.

2003 - Study ~ Inhibition of tumor angiogenesis by cannabinoids.

2003 - Study ~ Established and potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in oncology.

2003 - Study ~ The effects of smoked cannabis in painful peripheral neuropathy.

2003 - Study ~ Therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in CNS disease.

2003 - Study ~ Cannabinoid receptor systems: therapeutic targets for tumour intervention.

2003 - Study - The effects of smoked cannabis in painful peripheral neuropathy.

2002 - Study ~ Targeting the endocannabinoid system in cancer therapy: A call for further research.

2002 - Study ~ Patent 6410588 Use of cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory agents.

2002 - Study ~ Endocannabinoids in the immune system and cancer.

2001 - Study - Therapeutic Aspects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

2001 - News - Anti-Tumor Effects.

2000 - Study - Anandamide Induces Apoptosis in Human Cells via Vanilloid Receptors.

1997 - News ~ Study: THC Not Cancer-Causing

1996 - Study ~ Toxicity and Carcinogenicity of {Delta}9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Fischer Rats and B6C3F1 Mice.

1996 - Study ~ NTP Technical Report on the Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of 1-Trans-Delta9-Tetrahyrdocannabinol (CAS No. 1972-08-3) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies).

1994 - Study ~ A phase II study of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation in cancer-associated anorexia.

1991 - Study - Dronabinol and prochlorperazine in combination or treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

1990 - Study - Dronabinol enhancement of appetite in cancer patients.

1988 - Study - Efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol in patients refractory to standard anti-emetic therapy.

1988 - Study - Inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy.

1986 - Study - Nabilone versus domperidone.

1986 - Study ~ Prospective randomized double-blind trial of nabilone versus domperidone in the treatment of cytotoxic-induced emesis.

1984 - Study - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation.

1982 - Study - Nabilone vs. placebo in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

1980 - Study - The antiemetic activity of tetrahydrocanabinol versus metoclopramide.

1979 - Study - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic for patients receiving cancer chemotherapy.

1979 - Study - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic in cancer patients receiving high-dose methotrexate.

1979 - Study - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an antiemetic in patients treated with cancer chemotherapy.

1979 - Study - Amelioration of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting by delta-9-THC.

1979 - Study - Superiority of nabilone over prochlorperazine as an antiemetic.

1975 - Study - Analgesic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

1975 - Study - The analgesic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine.

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Because cancer affects so many people, it's natural to want confirmation that cannabis can, without question, cure cancer.

Medical Cannabis:
Antioxidants, such as retinol, are important for a healthy immune system.

Since 1974 studies have shown that cannabis has anti-tumor effects. The results of the 1974 study, reported in an Aug. 18, 1974, Washington Post newspaper feature, were that cannabis's component, THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent." In 1975 an article in the Journal of the National cancer institute titled "Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids," they reported that "Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBD).

Harvard Researchers found that compounds in cannabis cut the growth of lung cancer. There is also an organization called The SETH Group that showed compounds in cannabis can stop the growth of human glioblastoma multiforma (GBM) brain cancer cells.

The SETH Group says "No chemotherapy can match this nontoxic anti-cancer action." Even last year in 2012 a pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found THC stops metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer.

Choose a specific form of cancer
(cannabis studies)

CANCER (Breast)
CANCER (Cervical)
CANCER (Corolrectal)
CANCER (Glioma/Brain/Head)
CANCER (Leukemia)
CANCER (Lymphoma)
CANCER (Melanoma)
CANCER (Ovarian)
CANCER (Pancreatic)
CANCER (Prostate)
CANCER (Risk, cannabis vs tobacco)
CANCER (Testicular)
CANCER (Thyroid)
Image of a cancer cell
Image cancer cell division
WATCH VIDEO as compound in Cannabis oil (THC) kills cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone
Video: The Rick Simpson Story: Healing Cancer with Cannabis

Cannabinoid receptor ligands as potential anticancer agents-high hopes for new therapies?

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Jul

Oesch S, Gertsch J.

University Children's Hospital Divisions of Clinical Chemistry and Oncology, University of Zürich, Switzerland.


OBJECTIVES: The endocannabinoid system is an endogenous lipid signalling network comprising arachidonic-acid-derived ligands, cannabinoid (CB) receptors, transporters and endocannabinoid degrading enzymes. The CB(1) receptor is predominantly expressed in neurons but is also co-expressed with the CB(2) receptor in peripheral tissues. In recent years, CB receptor ligands, including Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, have been proposed as potential anticancer agents.

KEY FINDINGS: This review critically discusses the pharmacology of CB receptor activation as a novel therapeutic anticancer strategy in terms of ligand selectivity, tissue specificity and potency. Intriguingly, antitumour effects mediated by cannabinoids are not confined to inhibition of cancer cell proliferation; cannabinoids also reduce angiogenesis, cell migration and metastasis, inhibit carcinogenesis and attenuate inflammatory processes. In the last decade several new selective CB(1) and CB(2) receptor agents have been described, but most studies in the area of cancer research have used non-selective CB ligands. Moreover, many of these ligands exert prominent CB receptor-independent pharmacological effects, such as activation of the G-protein-coupled receptor GPR55, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma and the transient receptor potential vanilloid channels.

SUMMARY: The role of the endocannabinoid system in tumourigenesis is still poorly understood and the molecular mechanisms of cannabinoid anticancer action need to be elucidated. The development of CB(2)-selective anticancer agents could be advantageous in light of the unwanted central effects exerted by CB(1) receptor ligands. Probably the most interesting question is whether cannabinoids could be useful in chemoprevention or in combination with established chemotherapeutic agents.

Cancer Killer

October 14, 2004 - NOW Magazine (CN ON)

U.S. War on Drugs Stalling Mind-Blowing Research into Pot's Cancer-Healing Properties

By Paul Armentano

Clinical research published in a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research showing that marijuana's components can inhibit the growth of cancerous brain tumours is the latest in a long line of studies demonstrating the drug's potential as an anti-cancer agent.

This latest study, performed by researchers at Madrid's Complutense University, found that cannabis restricts the blood supply to glioblastoma multiforme tumours, an aggressive brain tumour that kills some 7,000 people in the United States every year.

But despite the value of such findings both in terms of the treatment of life-threatening illnesses and as news, U.S. media coverage has been almost non-existent.

Why the blackout? Not one such study has been acknowledged by the U.S. government.

This wasn't always the case. In fact, the first experiment documenting pot's anti-tumour effects took place in 1974 at the Medical College of Virginia at the behest of the U.S. government.

It showed that marijuana's psychoactive component, THC, "slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 per cent."

Despite these favourable preliminary findings, U.S. government officials refused to fund any follow-up research for two decades, until it conducted a similar - though secret - clinical trial in the mid-1990s.

That study, carried out by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, concluded that mice and rats administered high doses of THC over long periods had greater protection against malignant tumours than untreated controls.

Rather than publicize these findings, government researchers shelved the results, which only became public after a draft copy of the findings were leaked in 1997 to a medical journal that in turn forwarded the story to the national media.

However, in the eight years since then, the U.S. government has yet to fund a single additional study examining the drug's potential anti-cancer properties.

Is this a case of federal bureaucrats valuing politics more than the health and safety of patients? You be the judge.

Fortunately, scientists overseas have generously picked up where U.S. researchers so abruptly left off.

This month, researchers at the University of Milan in Italy, reported that marijuana's constituents inhibit the spread of brain cancer in human tumour biopsies from patients failed by standard cancer therapies.

Last year, the same researchers reported in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics that non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana inhibited the growth of glioma cells in a dose-dependent manner and selectively targeted and killed malignant cells, stimulating them to "commit suicide" in a natural process called apoptosis.

In 2000, a research team at Complutense's department of biochemistry and molecular biology reported in the journal Nature Medicine that injections of synthetic THC eradicated malignant gliomas (brain tumours) in one-third of treated rats.

The study was undertaken after the discovery in 1998 that THC can selectively induce apoptosis in brain tumour cells without negatively affecting the surrounding healthy cells.

Nevertheless, federal officials in the U.S. continue to refuse to express any interest in funding - or even acknowledging - this clinical research.

Anandamide Induces Apoptosis in Human Cells via Vanilloid Receptors

  1. Mauro Maccarrone
  2. Tatiana Lorenzon
  3. Monica Bari
  4. Gerry Melino
  5. Alessandro Finazzi-Agrò
  6. Abstract

    The endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) is shown to induce apoptotic bodies formation and DNA fragmentation, hallmarks of programmed cell death, in human neuroblastoma CHP100 and lymphoma U937 cells. RNA and protein synthesis inhibitors like actinomycin D and cycloheximide reduced to one-fifth the number of apoptotic bodies induced by AEA, whereas the AEA transporter inhibitor AM404 or the AEA hydrolase inhibitor ATFMK significantly increased the number of dying cells. Furthermore, specific antagonists of cannabinoid or vanilloid receptors potentiated or inhibited cell death induced by AEA, respectively. Other endocannabinoids such as 2-arachidonoylglycerol, linoleoylethanolamide, oleoylethanolamide, and palmitoylethanolamide did not promote cell death under the same experimental conditions. The formation of apoptotic bodies induced by AEA was paralleled by increases in intracellular calcium (3-fold over the controls), mitochondrial uncoupling (6-fold), and cytochrome c release (3-fold). The intracellular calcium chelator EGTA-AM reduced the number of apoptotic bodies to 40% of the controls, and electrotransferred anti-cytochrome c monoclonal antibodies fully prevented apoptosis induced by AEA. Moreover, 5-lipoxygenase inhibitors 5,8,11,14-eicosatetraynoic acid and MK886, cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin, caspase-3 and caspase-9 inhibitors Z-DEVD-FMK and Z-LEHD-FMK, but not nitric oxide synthase inhibitorNω-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester, significantly reduced the cell death-inducing effect of AEA. The data presented indicate a protective role of cannabinoid receptors against apoptosis induced by AEA via vanilloid receptors.


  7. *This work was supported in part by Istituto Superiore di Sanità (III AIDS Program), by Ministero dell'Università e della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica, Rome (to A.F.A.), and by Telethon Grant E872 (to G. M.).The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. The article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

  8. To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel./Fax: 39-06-72596468; E-mail:

  9. Published, JBC Papers in Press, July 25, 2000, DOI 10.1074/jbc.M005722200


anandamide (arachidonoylethanolamide)






arachidonoyl-trifluoromethyl ketone






type 1/2 cannabinoid receptor


acetoxymethyl ester


enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


5,8,11,14-eicosatetraynoic acid


fatty acid amide hydrolase




Nω-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester




phosphate-buffered saline




vanilloid receptor


Z-Asp(OCH3)-Glu(OCH3)-Val-Asp(OCH3)-fluoromethyl ketone


Z-Leu-Glu(OCH3)-His-Asp (OCH3)-fluoromethyl ketone


goat anti-mouse alkaline phosphatase


programmed cell death

Nabilone improves pain and symptom management

TitleThe synthetic cannabinoid nabilone improves pain and symptom management in cancer patients
Author(s)Maida V.
Journal, Volume, IssueAbstract presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on 15 December 2006
Major outcome(s)Nabilone treatment improved pain, nausea, appetite and several other symptoms
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Appetite loss/weight loss;Cancer;Pain;Depression;AnxietyAbstract

Background: Cancer patients experience numerous disease-related symptoms and side effects of treatment, such as pain, nausea, anorexia, anxiety, among others. Despite the use of the current drugs of first choice, many patients continue to suffer intractably from a number of symptoms. This impacts negatively on their quality of life, functional status, and their desire to continue with disease altering therapies. The synthetic cannabinoid, nabilone (Cesamet), is officially indicated for the treatment of refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Pre-clinical studies and preliminary findings from clinical trials suggest cannabinoids may be useful for the management of multiple symptoms and side effects in cancer patients. Nabilone offers the opportunity to optimize pain and symptom management while reducing overall polypharmacy.
Material and Methods: Data were retrospectively collected from the charts of patients referred to a specialist consultative palliative medicine program in a large urban centre between May 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006. The decision to prescribe nabilone was based on the presence of severe pain and symptom distress. The sample was selected on the basis that they had completed an Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) questionnaire on the initial consultation, and then, at least one thereafter. Data from a total of 139 patients were reviewed, of which nabilone was prescribed to 82. All patients were followed by a specialist team consisting of a palliative medicine physician and nurse practictioner. ESAS questionnaires were completed on their initial consultation and serially thereafter. Although 17 patients discontinued nabilone owing to side effects or based on the recommendation of other treating physicians, their follow-up continued. In addition, serial performance status, measured by the Palliative Performance Scale, version 2 (PPSv2), and a recording of all other medications employed was documented. Data analysis was carried out by an academic biostatistical consultant using MS Windows based S-Plus 6.2 software. The change in ESAS score on all 10 items was compared between the cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid subjects.
Results. The mean baseline PPSv2 was 56.7 ( 15.4) in the cannabinoid subjects and 53.9 ( 14.8) in the non-cannabinoid subjects; duration of follow-up (mean) was similar between the two groups (nabilone, 52.8 [ 80.3] days; non-nabilone, 51.6 [ 72.5] days). Compared with non-cannabinoid subjects, the nabilone subjects experienced significant (P<.0001) reductions in pain, markedly so in subjects with a PPS.v2 score of 60 or higher. For drowsiness, tiredness, appetite, and well-being, ESAS scores remained stable in the nabilone group but deteriorated in the non-nabilone group. While subjects in the nabilone group had significantly (P<.0001) greater nausea at baseline, they experienced a significant reduction (P<.0001), in contrast to non-cannabinoid subjects. Depression and anxiety were significantly (P<.0001) more prevalent in the nabilone group; however, reductions in both symptoms were significant (P<.0001) with use of the cannabinoid. Conversely, anxiety and depression increased in the non-cannabinoid group. Item No. 10 on the ESAS, Other, allows patients to rate a particularly bothersome symptom. Two symptoms emerged as important in nabilone subjects: insomnia and fever/night sweats. For both these symptoms, nabilone appeared to be efficacious. Distress, which is derived from scores on the first nine items of ESAS, improved significantly (P<.0001) in subjects receiving nabilone in contrast to non-cannabinoid subjects.
Discussion: The study findings are limited by potential biases. Imbalances between the two groups in baseline scores were not adjusted, and the time to the last measurement, from which change in scores was calculated, was variable. The standard of care in the two groups also was not documented. Nonetheless, nabilone, when added to standard of care and taken longer-term, appears to offer significant alleviation of several symptoms in cancer patients, including pain, nausea, depression and anxiety, insomnia, fever/night sweats, and overall distress.

Duration (days)53
Participants139 cancer patients
DesignOpen study
Type of publicationMeeting abstract
Address of author(s)University of Toronto; William Osler Health Center, Toronto, Canada
Full text

The effects of smoked cannabis in painful peripheral neuropathy

TitleThe effects of smoked cannabis in painful peripheral neuropathy and cancer pain refractory to opiods.
Author(s)Abrams DI, Jay Ch, Petersen K, Shade S, Vizoso H, Reda H, Benowitz N, Rowbotham M.
Journal, Volume, IssueIACM 2nd Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine, Cologne, 12-13 September 2003, International Association for Cannabis as Medicine.
Major outcome(s)10 of the 16 participants experienced a greater than 30% reduction in their pain

INTRODUCTION: There is significant evidence that cannabinoids may be involved in the modulation of pain, especially of neuropathic origin. There is also theoretical rationale to suggest that cannabinoids may provide synergistic analgesia with opioids while possibly reducing opioid-related side effects. No information is available on potential pharmacokinetic interactions between cannabinoids and opioids.
METHODS: We are currently conducting two clinical trials of smoked marijuana in two populations of patients with pain: HIV patients with painful peripheral neuropathy and cancer patients with persistent pain despite an opioid analgesic. Both studies are designed to begin with a 16 patient open-label pilot proof-of-concept phase. If effectiveness is demonstrated in the pilot, the magnitude of the effect allows us to calculate a follow-on randomized, double-blind controlled trial of smoked marijuana vs smoked placebo. In addition to the effect of smoked marijuana on the subjects’ chronic clinical pain, we are also evaluating the impact on an experimental heat/capsaicin pain model. Here we report experience with the open label phase of the neuropathy study.
RESULTS: Sixteen subjects (14 men, 2 women, mean age 43 years) completed the HIV neuropathy pilot trial. Patients had an average of 6 years of neuropathic pain. In 3 cases the pain was felt to be secondary to HIV alone, in 8 secondary to dideoxynucleoside antiretrovirals and to both in 5. Excellent correlation was seen between the response to smoking in the effect on both the chronic neuropathic and the acute experimental pain model over a six-hour period. Overall 10 of the 16 participants experienced a greater than 30% reduction in their neuropathic pain after seven days. This allowed us to proceed with our currently enrolling randomized placebo-controlled trial with a target sample size of 50 subjects. Additional controlled trials of smoked marijuana for HIV peripheral neuropathy are being conducted by other University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research investigators.
CONCLUSION: Preliminary results from a small, uncontrolled trial of smoked marijuana in HIV peripheral neuropathy are encouraging. The ongoing randomized trials will better elucidate the role of cannabinoids in this condition. A heat/capsaicin experimental pain model appears to be a good predictor of response to chronic pain. The potential of a beneficial clinical interaction between cannabinoids and opioids requires further study.

All Conditions Benefited by Medical Marijuana

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Duration (days) 
Participants16 HIV patients with neuropathic pain
DesignOpen study
Type of publicationMeeting abstract
Address of author(s)The University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94110, USA
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Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation

TitleA phase II study of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for appetite stimulation in cancer-associated anorexia.
Author(s)Nelson K, Walsh D, Deeter P, Sheehan F
Journal, Volume, IssueJournal of Palliative Care 1994;10(1):14-18
Major outcome(s)increase of appetite in 13 patients
IndicationAppetite loss/weight loss;CancerAbstract

Purpose: To evaluate the appetite-stimulating properties of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in patients with anorexia due to advanced cancer. Patients and methods: Nineteen patients with various malignancies were entered. All had cancer-associated anorexia and a life expectancy greater than four weeks. Patients were started on THC 2.5 mg p.o. t.i.d. one hour after meals for four weeks. Evaluations for side effects, efficacy, acceptability and satisfaction were conducted at two and four weeks. Results: 18 patients were evaluable. Ten patients completed the entire 28-day study. Four patients experienced grade I toxicity and three withdrew at their request. Thirteen patients reported an improved appetite. Conclusion: THC is an effective appetite stimulant in patients with advanced cancer. It is well tolerated at low doses. Further studies are needed to determine the most appropriate dose and the specific population most likely to respond.

All Conditions Benefited by Medical Marijuana

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Dose(s)2.5 mg three times daily
Duration (days)28
Participants18 patients with cancer evaluable
DesignOpen study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s)Palliative Care Program, Cleveland Clinic Foundation Ohio, USA
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Dronabinol and prochlorperazine in combination

TitleDronabinol and prochlorperazine in combination for treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Author(s)Lane M, Vogel CL, Ferguson J, Krasnow S, Saiers JL, Hamm J
Journal, Volume, IssueJournal of Pain and Symptom Management 1991;6:352-359
Major outcome(s)prochlorperazine better than THC, both drugs combined better than both alone
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

Dronabinol (Marinol, Roxane Laboratories, Columbus, OH) and prochlorperazine were tested alone and in combination in a randomized, double-blind, parallel group, multicenter study. Patients were randomized to receive either 1) dronabinol 10 mg every 6 hr plus placebo; 2) placebo plus prochlorperazine 10 mg every 6 hr; or 3) dronabinol and prochlorperazine, each 10 mg every 6 hr. Antiemetic treatment was begun 24 hr prior to and continued for 24 hr after the last dose of chemotherapy; all was given orally. Only 29% of patients in group 3 versus 47% in group 1 and 60% in group 2 experienced nausea after chemotherapy. In addition, the median duration per episode and severity of nausea were significantly less with combination therapy. Vomiting occurred after chemotherapy in 41%, 55%, and 35% of patients in groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively. The median duration per episode of vomiting was 1 min in group 3 versus two in group 1 and four in group 2. Side effects, primarily CNS, were more common in group 1 than in group 2; addition of prochlorperazine to dronabinol appeared to decrease the frequency of dysphoric effects seen with the latter agent. The combination was significantly more effective than was either single agent in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

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Duration (days)10 mg every 6 hr
Participants67 patients on various cancer chemotherapie
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
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Dronabinol enhancement of appetite in cancer patients

TitleDronabinol enhancement of appetite in cancer patients.
Author(s)Wadleigh R, Spaulding GM, Lumbersky B, Zimmer M, Shepard K, Plasse T.
Journal, Volume, IssueProc Am Soc Oncology 1990; 9: 331.
Major outcome(s)Dronabinol stimulated mood and appetite
IndicationAppetite loss/weight loss;CancerAbstract

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol has previously been noted to enhance appetite in healthy individuals and in cancer patients. To further study this phenomenon, an open, dose- ranging study was carried out in patients with unresectable cancer. After a baseline observation period, patients were treated with dronabinol (delta-9-THC in sesame oil, Marinol, Roxane Labs, Columbus, OH) for up to six weeks at doses of 2.5 mg qd (N=8), 2.5 mg bid (N=9) or 5 mg qd (N=13); patient accrual and dose escalation are still continuing. Patients were weighed weekly; they recorded appetite before each meal and their overall mood once daily 0n 10cm visual analog scales (VAS). Five patients discontinued dronabinol because of adverse effects, although some may have been related to other medications; three discontinued because of progressive desease. Patients in all groups continued to lose weight, although the rate of weight loss decreased with therapy at all doses. Symptomatic improvement was noted in both mood and appetite, with 2.5 mg qd being a no- effect dose. For patients on study at least three weeks, the following was seen:
Group 2.5 mg qd: N=6; Mean VAS Mode=-1.5; change, Appetite: -5.4; Mean decrease in weight loss, ib/wk=1.3.
Group 2.5 mg bid: N=7; Mean VAS Mode=10.8; change, Appetite: 18; Mean decrease in weight loss, ib/wk=0.6.
Group 5 mg qd: N=9; Mean VAS Mode=1.2; change, Appetite: 8.9; Mean decrease in weight loss, ib/wk=1.7
In this open, dose-ranging study, dronabinol appeared to stimulate both mood and appetite at well tolerated doses.

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Dose(s)2.5 mg twice - 5 mg four times daily
Duration (days)42
Participants30 cancer patients.
DesignOpen study
Type of publicationMeeting abstract
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Efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol

TitleEfficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol in patients refractory to standard anti-emetic therapy
Author(s)McCabe M, Smith FP, Goldberg D, Macdonald J, Woolley PV, Warren R
Journal, Volume, IssueInvestigational New Drugs 1988;6:243-246
Major outcome(s)THC decreased nausea and vomiting in 23 of 36 (64%) patients
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

Oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 15 mg/m2, was compared to prochlorperazine (PCZ), 10 mg. for the control of cancer chemotherapy-related emesis. Thirty-six patients whose vomiting was refractory to standard antiemetic therapy were entered in this randomized comparative cross-over study. THC decreased nausea and vomiting in 23 of 36 (64%) patients compared to 1 of 36 receiving PCZ. THC efficacy was not dependent on the class of antineoplastic-agent inducing the emetic symptoms, age of patients or type of sensorial change experienced. Using the 15 mg/m2 dose, all patients experienced transient sensorial changes, characterized as a pleasant "high" in 19 or a variable state of dysphoria in 17 cases. This study confirms the usefulness of THC in patients whose chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is refractory to other standard antiemetics. While excellent antiemetic control was achieved at the dosage 15 mg/m2, dysphoria was encountered at this dose level and we recommend that an initial dose of 5 mg/m2 which, if necessary, can be carefully increased to achieve maximum antiemetic benefit.

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Dose(s)dronabinol 15 mg/m2 1 h before chemotherapy and every 4 h thereafter for 24 h
Duration (days) 
Participants36 patients whose vomiting was refractory to standard antiem
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s)Division of Medical Oncology, Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Research Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20007
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Inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy

TitleInhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy.
Author(s)Vinciguerra V, Moore T, Brennan E.
Journal, Volume, IssueNew York State Journal of Medicine 1988;88:525-527.
Major outcome(s)Marijuana effective as antiemetic agent
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

A prospective pilot study of the use of inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy was conducted. Fifty-six patients who had no improvement with standard antiemetic agents were treated and 78% demonstrated a positive response to marijuana. Younger age and prior marijuana exposure were factors that predicted response to treatment. Toxicity was mild and consisted primarily of sedation and xerostomia. This preliminary trial suggests the usefulness of inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic agent. Because of the lack of a randomized placebo control group, the precise role of this agent is unclear. Further studies should include derivatives of this substance in combination with standard effective drugs to control chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

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Duration (days) 
Participants56 patients
DesignOpen study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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Nabilone versus domperidone

TitleProspective randomized double-blind trial of nabilone versus domperidone in the treatment of cytotoxic-induced emesis.
Author(s)Pomeroy M, Fennelly JJ, Towers M.
Journal, Volume, IssueCancer Chemother Pharmacol 1986;17(3):285-8.
Major outcome(s)Nabilone superior to domperidone
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

A prospective randomized double-blind trial comparing the butyrophenone analogue domperidone (D) and the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone (N) in the treatment of cytotoxic-induced emesis was conducted in 38 patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy regimens (70% containing cisplatin). Patients received 20 mg D or 1 mg N the night before chemotherapy and 8-hourly on each chemotherapy day for two consecutive cycles of treatment. Three of 19 patients randomized to N completed only one cycle because of disease progression or subjectively adverse effects. Four of 19 patients completed only one cycle of D because of lack of efficacy or chemotherapy toxicity. In all, 32 cycles of N and 33 cycles of D were evaluable for efficacy. The mean number of vomiting episodes in cycle 1 was 4.76 for N and 12.95 for D (P less than 0.02). The corresponding values for cycle 2 were 4.27 and 7.69 (P greater than 0.10), and for cycles 1 and 2 combined, 4.53 for N and 10.81 for D (P less than 0.01). Nausea and food intake scores did not differ significantly, although there was a trend towards less nausea and an increased food intake with N. Subjectively adverse effects were more frequent with N and included drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, and postural hypotension. N is superior to D for the control of cytotoxic-induced emesis.

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Duration (days) 
Participants38 cancer patients
DesignControlled study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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Nabilone vs. placebo in chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting

TitleA multi-institutional Phase III study of nabilone vs. placebo in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Author(s)Jones SE, Durant JR, Greco FA, Robertone A.
Journal, Volume, IssueCancer Treat Rev. 1982 Dec;9 Suppl B:45-8.
Major outcome(s)Nabilone is an effective antiemetic agent for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

A prospective, randomized, double-blind, crossover study of nabilone versus placebo was undertaken in three university cancer centers to determine the antiemetic efficacy and toxicity of nabilone in patients experiencing nausea and vomiting due to cancer chemotherapy. Identical study drug (2 mg of nabilone or placebo) was given the evening before and the morning of chemotherapy and for at least 24h afterwards on a b.i.d. schedule. Careful assessment of nausea, vomiting and finally patient preference for study drug was carried out on each of two identical courses of combination chemotherapy. Fifty-four patients were entered. Of the 24 patients fully evaluable for efficacy, nabilone significantly reduced the mean number of vomiting episodes (7 vs. 18, P<0.001) and nausea (P<0.001) compared to placebo. In addition, 79% of patients experienced less vomiting and 63% less nausea while receiving nabilone compared to 13 and 4% of patients reporting less with placebo. Sixty-seven percent of patients preferred nabilone at the completion of this trial compared to 8” for placebo (P<0.001). Side effects were common with nabilone but acceptable and in 49 patients who were evaluable for toxicity consisted primarily of dizziness (65%), drowsiness (51%), dry mouth (31%), sleep disturbance (14%), ataxia (8%), nausea (8%) and euphoria (6%). Nabilone is an effective antiemetic agent for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

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Dose(s)2 mg
Duration (days) 
Participants54 patients experiencing nausea and vomiting due to cancer c
DesignControlled study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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The antiemetic activity of tetrahydrocanabinol versus metoclopramide

TitleThe antiemetic activity of tetrahydrocanabinol versus metoclopramide and thiethylperazine in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy.
Author(s)Colls BM, Ferry DG, Gray AJ, Harvey VJ, McQueen EG.
Journal, Volume, IssueNew Zealand Medical Journal 1980;91:449-451
Major outcome(s)tetrahydrocannabinol given by mouth has an antiemetic effect of approximately the same order as thiethylperazine and metoclopramide
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

A double blind-cross-over randomised clinical trial has been conducted to compare the antiemetic effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, thiethylperazine and metoclopramide. There were no significant differences in the antiemetic effects of these drugs. The incidence of adverse reactions as recorded by both the staff and the patients was significantly higher in the tetrahydrocannabinol group than in either the metoclopramide or thiethylperazine groups. This trial has established that in the dosages used tetrahydrocannabinol given by mouth has an antiemetic effect of approximately the same order as thiethylperazine and metoclopramide. However, its adverse effects are sufficiently greater than those of the other agents to prevent is widespread usage for this purpose. Tetrahydrocannabinol taken by mouth is not recommended as a routine antiemetic agent in cancer chemotherapy.

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Duration (days) 
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
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Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic for patients receiving cancer chemotherapy

TitleDelta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic for patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. A comparison with prochlorperazine and a placebo.
Author(s)Frytak S, Moertel CG, O'Fallon JR, Rubin J, Creagan ET, O'Connell MJ, Schutt AJ, Schwartau NW
Journal, Volume, IssueAnnals of Internal Medicine 1979;91(6):825-830
Major outcome(s)THC and PCP equally effective; both better than placebo; THC produced psychic effects in 82%
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

The antiemetic activity and side-effects of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were evaluated in 116 patients (median age 61 years) receiving combined 5-fluorouracil and semustine (methyl CCNU) therapy for gastrointestinal carcinoma. In a double-blind study, patients were randomized to receive THC, 15 mg orally three times a day, prochlorperazine, 10 mg orally three times a day, or placebo. The THC had superior antiemetic activity in comparison to placebo, but it showed no advantage over prochlorperazine. Central nervous system side-effects, however, were significantly more frequent and more severe with THC. With the dosage and schedule we used, and in our patient population of largely elderly adults, THC therapy resulted in an overall more unpleasant treatment experience than that noted with prochlorperazine or placebo. Although THC may have a role in preventing nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, this role must be more clearly defined before THC can be recommended for general use.

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Dose(s)3 x 15 mg every 4 hours
Duration (days)several days
Participants116 cancer patients
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s)Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
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Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic in cancer patients receiving high-dose methotrexate

TitleDelta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol as an antiemetic in cancer patients receiving high-dose methotrexate. A prospective, randomized evaluation.
Author(s)Chang AE, Shiling DJ, Stillman RC, Goldberg NH, Seipp CA, Barofsky I, Simon RM, Rosenberg SA.
Journal, Volume, IssueAnnals of Internal Medicine 1979;91:819-824.
Major outcome(s)14 of 15 patients had decreased vomiting and nausea
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

Fifteen patients with osteogenic sarcoma receiving high-dose methotrexate
chemotherapy were studied in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
trial of oral and smoked delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an antiemetic.
Each patient served as his or her own control. Fourteen of 15 patients had a
reduction in nausea and vomiting on THC as compared to placebo.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol was significantly more effective than placebo in
reducing the number of vomiting and retching episodes, degree of nausea,
duration of nausea, and volume of emesis (P less than 0.001). There was a 72%
incidence of nausea and vomiting on placebo. When plasma THC concentrations
measured less than 5.0 ng/mL, 5.0 to 10.0 ng/mL, and greater than 10.0 ng/mL,
the incidences of nausea and vomiting were 44%, 21%, and 6%, respectively.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol appears to have significant antiemetic properties
when compared with placebo in patients receiving high-dose methotrexate.

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Dose(s)10mg/m2 oral, 17mg smoking every 3 hours
Duration (days) 
Participants15 patients receiving high-dose methotrexate
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
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Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an antiemetic in patients treated with cancer chemotherapy

TitleDelta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an antiemetic in patients treated with cancer chemotherapy; a double-blind cross-over trial against placebo
Author(s)Kluin-Nelemans JC, Nelemans FA, Meuwissen OJATh, Maes RAA
Journal, Volume, IssueVeterinary and Human Toxicology 1979;21:338-340
Major outcome(s)dronabinol superior to placebo (P<.01 for difference between groups at days 1 and 8 independently)
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

A double-blind cross-over trial with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and placebo was employed to test the antiemetic effect on nausea and vomiting after MOPP-therapy. Although THC had remarkable antiemetic effects, there side effects were severe. Most patients preferred the nausea and the vomiting after MOPP-therapy to the use of THC. A relation between the antiemetic action or the side-effects and the blood-level of THC could not be demonstrated.

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Dose(s)10 mg/m2 every 4 h, 3 doses a day
Duration (days)on day 1 and day 8 of chemotherapy
Participantspatients receiving MOPP chemotherapy
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s) 
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Amelioration of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting by delta-9-THC

TitleAmelioration of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Author(s)Ekert H, Waters KD, Jurk IH, Mobilia J, Loughnan P
Journal, Volume, IssueMed J Aust. 1979 Dec 15;2(12):657-9.
Major outcome(s)THC was effective in reducing nausea and vomiting but not in all patients

The antinausea and antivomiting effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in children receiving cancer chemotherapy were compared with those of metoclopramide syrup and prochlorperazine tablets in two double-blind studies. THC was found to be a significantly better antinausea and antivomiting agent, but not all patients obtained relief of nausea and vomiting with THC. In some patients, THC enhanced appetite during a course of chemotherapy. In two patients, a "high" associated with THC administrationwas reported. Drowsiness was reported significantly more frequently with THC.

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Dose(s) 10 mg/m2 2 hr prior to chemo and 4, 8, 16 and 24 h after the first dose;
Duration (days) 
ParticipantsChildren receiving cancer chemotherapy
DesignControlled study
Type of publicationMedical journal
Address of author(s) 
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Superiority of nabilone over prochlorperazine as an antiemetic

TitleSuperiority of nabilone over prochlorperazine as an antiemetic in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy.
Author(s)Herman TS, Einhorn LH, Jones SE, Nagy C, Chester AB, Dean JC, Furnas B, Williams SD, Leigh SA, Dorr RT, Moon TE.
Journal, Volume, IssueN Engl J Med. 1979 Jun 7;300(23):1295-7.
Major outcome(s)When both drugs were compared, both nausea and vomiting episodes were significantly lower in patients given nabilone.
IndicationNausea/vomiting;Cancer;Cancer chemotherapyAbstract

Two double-blind, crossover trials comparing the antiemetic effectiveness of nabilone, a new synthetic cannabinoid, with that of prochlorperazine were conducted in patients with severe nausea and vomiting associated with anticancer chemotherapy. Of 113 patients evaluated, 90 (80 per cent) responded to nabilone therapy, whereas only 36 (32 per cent) responded to prochlorperazine (P less than 0.001). Complete relief of symptoms was infrequent, occurring only in nine patients (8 per cent) given nabilone. When both drugs were compared, both nausea (P less than 0.01) and vomiting episodes (P less than 0.001) were significantly lower in patients given nabilone. Moreover, patients clearly favored nabilone for continued use (P less than 0.001). Predominant side effects noted by patients were similar for both agents and included somnolence, dry mouth and dizziness but were about twice as frequent and more often severe in patients receiving nabilone. In addition, four patients (3 per cent) taking nabilone had side effects (hallucinations in three, hypotension in one) that required medical attention. Euphoria associated with nabilone was infrequent (16 per cent) and mild.

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Analgesic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabino

TitleAnalgesic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
Author(s)Noyes R Jr, Brunk SF, Baram DA, Canter A
Journal, Volume, IssueJournal of Clinical Pharmacology 1975;15(2-3):139-143
Major outcome(s)pain relief with 15-20 mg THC
IndicationCancer; PainAbstract

A preliminary trial of oral delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) demonstrated an analgesic effect of the drug in patients experiencing cancer pain. Placebo and 5, 10, 15, and 20 mg THC were administered double blind to ten patients. Pain relief significantly superior to placebo was demonstrated at high dose levels (15 and 20 mg). At these levels, substantial sedation and mental clouding were reported.

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Dose(s)5-20 mg
Duration (days) 
Participants10 cancer patients
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
Address of author(s) 
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The analgesic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine

TitleThe analgesic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine.
Author(s)Noyes R Jr, Brunk SF, Avery DAH, Canter AC
Journal, Volume, IssueClinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1975;18(1):84-89
Major outcome(s)milde analgesic effect; with 20 mg THC strong adverse effects
IndicationCancer; PainAbstract

The administration of single oral doses of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to patients with cancer pain demonstrated a mild analgesic effect. At a dose of 20 mg, however, THC induced side effects that would prohibit its therapeutic use including somnolence, dizziness, ataxia, and blurred vision. Alarming adverse reactions were also observed at this dose. THC, 10 mg, was well tolerated and, despite its sedative effect, may analgesic potential.

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Dose(s)10-20 mg
Duration (days) 
Participants36 cancer patients
DesignControlled study
Type of publication 
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Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta-9-THC

Strasser F, Luftner D, Possinger K, Ernst G, Ruhstaller T, Meissner W, Ko YD, Schnelle M, Reif M, Cerny T 
Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in treating patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome: a multicenter, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial from the Cannabis-In-Cachexia-Study-Group. [Clinical Trial, Phase III, Journal Article, Multicenter Study, Randomized Controlled Trial, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
J Clin Oncol 2006 Jul 20; 24(21):3394-400.


 PURPOSE: To compare the effects of cannabis extract (CE), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and placebo (PL) on appetite and quality of life (QOL) in patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS).
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Adult patients with advanced cancer, CACS, weight loss (> or = 5% over 6 months), and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS) < or = 2 were randomly assigned (2:2:1) to receive CE (standardized for 2.5 mg THC and 1 mg cannabidiol) or THC (2.5 mg) or PL orally, twice daily for 6 weeks. Appetite, mood, and nausea were monitored daily with a visual analog scale (VAS); QOL was assessed with the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire C30 (composite score: questions 29 and 30). Cannabinoid-related toxicity was assessed every 2 weeks.
RESULTS: Of 289 patients screened, 243 were randomly assigned and 164 (CE, 66 of 95 patients; THC, 65 of 100 patients; and PL, 33 of 48 patients) completed treatment. At baseline, groups were comparable for age (mean, 61 years), sex (54% men), weight loss (32% > or = 10%), PS (13% ECOG = 2), antineoplastic treatment (50%), appetite (mean VAS score, 31/100 mm), and QOL (mean score, 30/100). Intent-to-treat analysis showed no significant differences between the three arms for appetite, QOL, or cannabinoid-related toxicity. Increased appetite was reported by 73%, 58%, and 69% of patients receiving CE, THC, or PL, respectively. An independent data review board recommended termination of recruitment because of insufficient differences between study arms.
CONCLUSION: CE at the oral dose administered was well tolerated by these patients with CACS. No differences in patients' appetite or QOL were found either between CE, THC, and PL or between CE and THC at the dosages investigated.

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Cannabis May Help Combat Cancer causing Herpes Viruses

ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2004) — Tampa, FL (Sept. 22, 2004)

The compound in marijuana that produces a high, delta-9 tetrahydrocannbinol or THC, may block the spread of several forms of cancer causing herpes viruses, University of South Florida College of Medicine scientists report.


The findings, published Sept. 15 in the online journal BMC Medicine, could lead to the creation of antiviral drugs based on nonpsychoactive derivatives of THC.

The gamma herpes viruses include Kaposi's Sarcoma Associated Herpes virus, which is associated with an increased risk of cancer that is particularly prevalent in AIDS sufferers. Another is Epstein-Barr virus, which predisposes infected individuals to cancers such as Burkitt's lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease.

Once a person is infected, these viruses can remain dormant for long periods within white blood cells before they burst out and begin replicating. This reactivation of the virus boosts the number of cells infected thereby increasing the chances that the cells will become cancerous.

The USF team, led by virologist Peter Medveczky, MD, found that this sudden reactivation was prevented if infected cells were grown in the presence of THC. While cells infected with a mouse gamma herpes virus normally died when the virus was reactivated, these same cells survived when cultured in the laboratory along with the cannabinoid compound – further evidence that THC prevents viral reactivation.

Furthermore, the researchers showed that THC acts specifically on gamma herpes viruses. The chemical had no effect on another related virus, herpes simplex-1, which causes cold sores and genital herpes.

Small concentrations of THC were more potent and selective against gamma herpes viruses than the commonly used antiviral drugs acyclovir, gancicyclovir and foscamet, said Dr. Medveczky, a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

The USF researchers suggest that THC selectively inhibits the spread of gamma herpes viruses by targeting a gene these viruses all share called ORF50.

Dr. Medveczky emphasized that more studies are needed. "We have not evaluated the effect of THC in an animal model yet so we do not recommend people start using pot to prevent or treat cancers."

In fact, Dr. Meveczky said, THC has also been shown to suppress the immune system so smoking marijuana could "do more harm than good" to patients whose immune systems are often already weakened.

 Story Source:

 The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by CMMC) from materials provided by University Of South Florida Health Sciences Center.



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Marijuana Smoking Found Non-Carcinogenic

By Neil Osterweil, Senior Associate Editor, MedPage Today
Published: May 24, 2006
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco .

 SAN DIEGO, May 24 — Smoking marijuana does not appear to increase the risk of lung cancer or head-and-neck malignancies, even among heavy users, researchers reported here.

"We expected that we would find that a history of heavy marijuana use, more than 500 to 1,000 uses, would increase the risk of cancer from several years to decades after exposure to marijuana, said Donald Tashkin, M.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles.

But in fact, they reported at the American Thoracic Society meeting here, marijuana use was associated with cancer risk ratios below 1.0, indicating that a history of pot smoking had no effect on the risk for respiratory cancers.

Dr. Tashkin was quick to point out, however, that marijuana does not appear to have a protective effect against cancer. "If it did, there would be a dose-dependent effect, with people who smoked more having a lower risk," he said. "We didn't see that."

Studies have shown that marijuana contains many compounds that when burned, produce about 50% higher concentrations of some carcinogenic chemicals than tobacco cigarettes.

In addition, heavy, habitual marijuana use can produce accelerated malignant change in lung explants, and evidence on bronchial biopsies of pre-malignant histopathologic and molecular changes, Dr. Tashkin said.

The investigators had also previously shown that smoking one marijuana cigarette leads to the deposition in the lungs of four times as much tar as smoking a tobacco cigarette containing the same amount of plant material. Marijuana cigarettes are not filtered and are more loosely packed than tobacco, so there's less filtration of the tar. In addition, pot smokers hold the smoke in their lungs about four times longer than tobacco smokers do, Dr. Tashkin pointed out.

He and his colleagues, led by epidemiologist Hal Morgenstern, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, conducted a study to look at possible associations between marijuana use and the risk of respiratory cancers among middle-age adults in the Los Angeles area.

For the population-based case-control study, they identified cancer cases among people from the ages of 18 to 59, using the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance Program registry.

They identified 611 people with lung cancer, 601 with cancers of the head and neck, and 1,040 controls matched by age, gender and neighborhood (as a surrogate for socioeconomic status).

They conducted extensive personal interviews to determine lifetime marijuana use, measured in joint-years, with one joint-year equivalent to 365 marijuana cigarettes. The interviewers also asked participants about tobacco use, alcohol consumption, use of other drugs, socioeconomic status, diet, occupation, and family history of cancer.

The investigators also used logistic regression to estimate the effect of marijuana use on lung cancer risk, adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, and cumulative tobacco smoking and alcohol use.

They found that the heaviest users in the study had smoked more than 60 joint years worth of marijuana, or more than 22,000 joints in their lifetime. Moderately heavy users smoked between 11,000 and 22,000 joints.

"That's an enormous amount of marijuana," Dr. Tashkin said.

Despite the heavy use, "in no category was there any increased risk, nor was there any suggestion that smoking more led to a higher odds ratio," he continued. "There was no dose-response—not even a suggestion of a dose response—and in all types of cancer except one, oral cancer, the odds ratios were less than one."

The confidence intervals around the odds ratios were wide however, and the odds ratios did not show a dose response.

In contrast, tobacco smoking was associated with increased risk for all cancers, and there was a "powerful" dose-response relationship. People who smoked more than two packs of cigarettes per day had a 21-fold risk for cancer, as opposed to a less than onefold risk for marijuana, Dr. Tashkin said.

"When we restricted the analysis to those who didn't smoke any tobacco we found the same results, and when we looked for interaction between tobacco and smoking—would marijuana increase the risk, potentiate the carcinogenic effect of tobacco—we didn't find that, nor did we find a protective effect against the effect of tobacco, which is very important, because the majority of marijuana smokers also smoke tobacco," he commented.

It's possible that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana smoke may encourage apoptosis, or programmed cell death, causing cells to die off before they have a chance to undergo malignant transformation, he said.

Dr. Tashkin also noted that "it's never a good idea to take anything into your lungs, including marijuana smoke."

Primary source: 2006 American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting
Source reference:
Tashkin DP et al. "Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study." Presented in a briefing May 23 and in an oral session May 24, 2006
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A Cannabinoid Anticancer Quinone, HU-331, Is More Potent and Less Cardiotoxic Than Doxorubicin: A Comparative in Vivo Study

  1. Natalya M. Kogan
  2. Michael Schlesinger
  3. Maximilian Peters
  4. Gergana Marincheva
  5. Ronen Beeri
  6. Raphael Mechoulam

- Author Affiliations

  1. Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Pharmacy School, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel (N.M.K., M.P., R.M.); Department of Experimental Medicine and Cancer Research, School of Medicine, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel (M.S.); and Heart Institute, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel (G.M., R.B.)
  1. Address correspondence to:
    Natalya M. Kogan, Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Pharmacy School, Ein-Kerem Medical Campus, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91120, Israel. E-mail:


Several quinones have been found to be effective in the treatment of some forms of cancer; however, their cumulative heart toxicity limits their use. The cannabinoid quinone HU-331 [3S,4R-p-benzoquinone-3-hydroxy-2-p-mentha-(1,8)-dien-3-yl-5-pentyl] is highly effective against tumor xenografts in nude mice. We report now a comparison of the anticancer activity of HU-331 and its cardiotoxicity with those of doxorubicin in vivo. General toxicity was assayed in Sabra, nude and SCID-NOD mice. The anticancer activity in vivo was assessed by measurement of the tumors with an external caliper in HT-29 and Raji tumor-bearing mice and by weighing the excised tumors. Left ventricular function was evaluated with transthoracic echocardiography. Myelotoxicity was evaluated by blood cell count. Cardiac troponin T (cTnT) plasma levels were determined by immunoassay. HU-331 was found to be much less cardiotoxic than doxorubicin. The control and the HU-331-treated groups gained weight, whereas the doxorubicin-treated group lost weight during the study. In HT-29 colon carcinoma, the tumor weight in the HU-331-treated group was 54% smaller than in the control group and 30% smaller than in the doxorubicin-treated group. In Raji lymphoma, the tumor weight in the HU-331-treated group was 65% smaller than in the control group and 33% smaller than in the doxorubicin-treated group. In contrast to doxorubicin, HU-331 did not generate reactive oxygen species in mice hearts (measured by protein carbonylation levels and malondialdehyde levels). In vivo, HU-331 was more active and less toxic than doxorubicin and thus it has a high potential for development as a new anticancer drug.


  • Article, publication date, and citation information can be found at

  • doi:10.1124/jpet.107.120865.

  • ABBREVIATIONS: LVEDD, left ventricular end diastolic diameter; LVESD, left ventricular end systolic diameter; IVSWD, interventricular septal wall diameter; LV, left ventricular; cTnT, cardiac troponin T; Abs, absorbance; MDA, malondialdehyde; EF, ejection fraction; FS, fractional shortening; HU-331, 3S,4R-p-benzoquinone-3-hydroxy-2-p-mentha-(1,8)-dien-3-yl-5-pentyl.

    • Received February 1, 2007.
    • Accepted April 26, 2007.

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Therapeutic Aspects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids


PHILIP ROBSON, FRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist and Senior Clinical Lecturer, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX


Background: Review commissioned in 1996 by the Department of Health (DOH).

Aims: Assess therapeutic profile of cannabis and cannabinoids.

Method: Medline search, references supplied by DOH and others, and personal communications.

Results and Conclusions: Cannabis and some cannabinoids are effective antiemetics and analgesics and reduce intraocular pressure. There is evidence of symptom relief and improved well-being in selected neurological conditions, AIDS and certain cancers. Cannabinoids may reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Anticonvulsant activity requires clarification. Other properties identified by basic research await evaluation. Standard treatments for many relevant disorders are unsatisfactory. Cannabis is safe in overdose but often produces unwanted effects, typically sedation, intoxication, clumsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, lowered blood pressure or increased heart rate. The discovery of specific receptors and natural ligands may lead to drug developments. Research is needed to optimise dose and route of administration, quantify therapeutic and adverse effects, and examine interactions.

Declaration of interest: Funding from DOH. Between writing this paper and its acceptance for publication, P.R. was appointed Medical Director of GW Pharmaceuticals.


In 1996 I was commissioned by the Department of Health (DOH) to review the scientific literature regarding the potential therapeutic utility of cannabis and its derivatives. The review was based upon primary sources (identified from a Medline literature search, reference lists supplied by the DOH and the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence, and personal communications with relevant academics and clinicians). This paper is a greatly shortened version of the review. The 4 years which have elapsed have seen little in the way of new clinical results but considerable advances in cannabinoid basic science (Institute of Medicine, 1999). Government licences have recently been granted for several controlled trials of both synthetic and plant-derived cannabinoids in multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. In January 2000, I was appointed Medical Director of GW Pharmaceuticals, a company established to derive medicinal extracts from standardised cannabis plants.

The first formal report of cannabis as a medicine appeared in China nearly 5000 years ago when it was recommended for malaria, constipation, rheumatic pains and childbirth and, mixed with wine, as a surgical analgesic (Mechoulam, 1986). There are subsequent records of its use throughout Asia, the Middle East, Southern Africa and South America. Accounts by Pliny, Dioscorides and Galen remained influential in European medicine for 16 centuries.

It was not until the 19th century that cannabis became a mainstream medicine in Britain. W. B. O'Shaughnessy, an Irish scientist and physician, observed its use in India as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, anti-emetic and hypnotic. After toxicity experiments on goats and dogs, he gave it to patients and was impressed with its muscle-relaxant, anticonvulsant and analgesic properties, and recorded its usefulness as an anti-emetic.

After these observations were published in 1842, medicinal use of cannabis expanded rapidly. It soon became available 'over the counter' in pharmacies and by 1854 it had found its way into the United States Dispensatory. The American market became flooded with dozens of cannabis-containing home remedies.

Queen Victoria's personal physician wrote (Reynolds, 1890), on the basis of more than 30 years' experience, that "Indian hemp, when pure and administered carefully, is one of the most valuable medicines we possess". He found it incomparable for "senile insomnia", "night restlessness" and "temper disease" in both children and adults, but not helpful in melancholia, "very uncertain" in alcoholic delirium, and "worse than useless" in mania. It was very effective in neuralgia, period pains, migraine, "lightning pain of the ataxic patient" and gout, but useless in sciatica and "hysteric pains". He found it impressive in clonic spasms and certain epileptiform convulsions related to brain damage, but no good at all in petit mal or "chronic epilepsy", tetanus, chorea or paralysis agitans. It effectively relieved nocturnal cramps, asthma and dysmenorrhoea.

Reynolds was writing at a time when the zenith of cannabis as prescribed medicine and home remedy was already past. Although Sir William Osler was still recommending it for migraine sufferers in 1913, it was by then in steep decline because of variable potency of herbal preparations, poor storage stability, unpredictable response to oral administration, increasing enthusiasm for parenteral medicines and availability of potent synthetic alternatives, commercial pressures and American concern about recreational use. Cannabis was outlawed in 1928 by ratification of the 1925 Geneva Convention on the manufacture, sale and movement of dangerous drugs. Prescription remained possible until final prohibition under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, against the advice of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence.

In the USA, medical use was effectively ruled out by the Marijuana Tax Act 1937. This ruling has been under almost constant legal challenge and many special dispensations were made between 1976 and 1992 for individuals to receive 'compassionate reefers'. Although this loophole has been closed, a 1996 California state law permits cultivation or consumption of cannabis for medical purposes, if a doctor provides a written endorsement. Similar arrangements apply in Italy and Canberra, Australia.

Cannabinol was isolated in 1895 and cannabidiol in 1934, but the most significant discovery was that of [DELTA]9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in 1964. Chromatographic and spectroscopic methods subsequently uncovered many closely related compounds.

Capsules of synthetic THC (dronabinol) have been available for restricted medical use in the USA since 1985. Nabilone, a synthetic THC analogue, was marketed in 1983 and is the only cannabinoid licensed for prescription in the UK, restricted to treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by cytotoxic chemotherapy unresponsive to conventional anti-emetics. Use in other indications is only possible on a 'named patient' basis if the drug is supplied by a hospital pharmacy.

In 1988, a specific protein receptor (known as CB1) for THC was discovered in mouse nerve cells. This mediates most of the central nervous system (CNS) responses to cannabinoids, and is abundant in basal ganglia, hippocampus and cerebellum, globus pallidus, substantia nigra and cerebral cortex. An endogenous ligand was identified in 1992 and labelled anandamide (ananda: 'bliss' in Sanskrit). Anandamide has analgesic and tranquillising effects in animals, is involved in muscle coordination and affects the secretion and function of certain hormones. Other endogenous agonists almost certainly exist.

In 1993, a second receptor (CB2) was identified in rat spleen macrophages, and this occurs only outside the CNS. There is scope for chemical manipulation of cannabinoids to maximise selectivity for CB2 and so avoid psychoactive effects. It is thought this receptor has relevance for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity.

Pertwee (1995) has suggested that the anandamide system might be concerned with mood, memory and cognition, perception, movement, coordination, posture and skeletal muscle tone, sleep, thermoregulation, appetite and immune response.

Nausea and vomiting
Many cytotoxic drugs are powerful emetics, and this is the major limiting factor in patients' acceptance of cancer chemotherapy (see Table 1 and Appendix).


Table 1 Human randomised controlled trials (RCTs): anti-emetic effects

Many recreational smokers receiving cancer chemotherapy have told their doctors that cannabis relieved their nausea (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993). Sallan et al's (1975) randomised control trial (RCT) compared oral THC and placebo in 22 cancer patients who had proved resistant to conventional anti-emetics. Comparisons using patients' self-reports of nausea and vomiting demonstrated that THC was statistically superior to placebo. THC (10 mg/m2) produced euphoria in the majority of patients, and one-third experienced sedation.

Subsequent RCTs (listed in Table 1) confirmed that natural and synthetic THC is invariably superior to placebo. Comparisons with anti-emetics available in the 1970s and 1980s suggest that THC is either equivalent in effect or better. A combination of prochlorperazine and THC was superior to either drug alone, and nabilone combined with prochlorperazine was better than dexamethazone plus metoclopramide. Although THC and nabilone produced more unwanted effects than comparison drugs, patients generally preferred them.

Children seem to respond well to nabilone and are tolerant of side-effects, but larger studies are required. [DELTA]8-THC performed well in a pilot study (Abrahamov et al, 1995) involving eight children aged 3-13 years with various blood cancers receiving chemotherapy, 60% of whom had experienced distressing vomiting despite treatment with metoclopramide. [DELTA]8-THC was given orally 2 hours before cytotoxics and repeated 6-hourly. No vomiting was recorded during this treatment and over the following 2 days. Two children were "slightly irritable" and one also showed "slight euphoria".

In a review of 12 studies involving 600 patients (Penta et al, 1981), THC was "effective" in 8/9 and nabilone in 3/3. The most common side-effects were somnolence (33%), dry mouth (9%), ataxia (8%), dizziness (6%), dysphoria (6%), and orthostatic hypotension (4%). A further review (Levitt, 1986) incorporating 55 studies, of which 32 were RCTs, showed that low-dose preventive treatment gives better results than targeting established vomiting. Younger patients may respond better than older ones.

Meta-analysis (Plasse et al, 1991) suggested that an optimal balance of efficacy and unwanted effects was achieved with relatively modest doses (7 mg/m2 or less). Sedation and psychotropic symptoms are commonly reported, but are usually mild to moderate in intensity and resolve rapidly on discontinuation. No "persistent or fatal" adverse effects have been reported. Many American oncologists encourage nauseous patients to try cannabis and would prescribe it if it were legal (Doblin & Kleiman, 1991). Mode of action remains uncertain.

Multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions
Drug therapy of muscle spasticity is generally only moderately effective and is limited by adverse effects (see Appendix). Spasticity is a central feature of multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury. Tremor, ataxia and incontinence also contribute to the high incidence of anxiety and depression in these conditions. Cannabis was often used to treat pain, muscle spasm, cramps and ataxia in the 19th century, and many modern sufferers have reported benefits (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993).

Most respondents to a questionnaire sent to British and American MS patients reported problems with symptom control (Consroe et al, 1997). Those who smoked cannabis claimed improvements in night-time spasticity and muscle pain (91-98%); night leg pain, depression, tremor, anxiety, spasms on walking, paraesthesiae (80-89%); leg weakness, trunk numbness, facial pain (71-74%); impaired balance (57%); constipation (33%); memory loss (31%).

In a small single-blind comparison with placebo (Clifford, 1983), THC improved tremor and ataxia in most patients. All experienced a 'high' at the top dose (15 mg), and two reported dysphoria. Dose-related improvements in dystonia were noted in five patients given cannabidiol 100-600 mg daily for 6 weeks. Hypotension, dry mouth, sedation and light-headedness occurred but were described as mild. Parkinsonian symptoms were aggravated in two subjects.

An RCT by Petro & Ellenberger (1981) compared the effects of placebo and THC in doses of 5 or 10 mg on muscle tone, reflexes and muscle power in nine MS patients. Both doses of THC reduced spasticity (P < 0.005). One patient receiving THC 10 mg and one patient receiving placebo felt 'high' but no other side-effects were recorded. In a small RCT (Ungerleider et al, 1987) with 5-day treatment periods, THC 7.5 mg significantly improved spasticity in comparison with placebo. Nabilone 1 mg on alternate days was compared with placebo in a double-blind randomised crossover trial with 4-week treatment periods in a single MS patient. Nocturia, muscle spasm and general well-being showed striking improvement during each active treatment period. Mild sedation was noted on active medication.

Cannabidiol had no beneficial effects in 15 patients with Huntington's disease (Consroe et al, 1991). Posture and balance were impaired by a single dose of smoked THC in 10 MS patients and 10 non-MS volunteers (Greenberg et al, 1994), but there was no active control to determine the effects of standard anti-spastic medication in this model.

Possible sites of action of cannabinoids in dystonia include basal ganglia, cerebellum, spinal motor neurons, somatic nerves and neuromuscular junction.

Loss of appetite and weight in cancer and AIDS
Several studies have investigated effect on appetite and weight (Table 2). The appetite-stimulating effect of cannabis was confirmed in fasting and non-fasting volunteers in an RCT of oral THC with alcohol, amphetamine and placebo (Hollister, 1971). A standardised THC smoking regime over 25 days in a residential laboratory was associated with significant increases in calorie intake and frequency of eating occasions in comparison with placebo.


Table 2 Human randomised controlled trials (RCTs): appetite and weight

Open studies in cancer patients also showed appetite improvements and slowing of weight loss. Regelson et al's (1976) RCT explored the effect on appetite (and mood) of oral THC in 54 cancer patients over a 2-week period. There were nine with-drawals due to side-effects (six in THC period - dizziness, disassociation, confused thinking, panic, "feelings of disturbance"; three in the placebo period - anxiety, fits, dizziness, lethargy, weakness). Patients receiving THC in the first period gained weight (P<0.05), and those receiving placebo first showed reduced weight loss on transfer to THC (P<0.05). Depression, tranquillity and "forthrightness" scores all improved on THC. In a quarter of the patients, somnolence, dizziness and disassociation were severe enough to negate these effects.

Many people with AIDS have claimed that smoking marijuana inhibits nausea, improves appetite, reduces anxiety, relieves aches and pains, improves sleep and inhibits oral candidiasis. A small pilot study supported the hypothesis that dronabinol might reduce weight loss or even promote weight gain (Plasse et al, 1991).

Beal et al (1995) conducted an RCT over 42 days of treatment with dronabinol 5 mg daily in 139 AIDS patients who had lost at least 2.3 kg. Six receiving dronabinol and three receiving placebo withdrew because of "perceived drug toxicity". Dronabinol boosted appetite in comparison to placebo (P<0.015) and nausea was reduced (P=0.05). Improvement in mood was a strong trend (P=0.06) and there was a tendency toward weight gain (P=0.1). Dronabinol produced more adverse effects than placebo (P<0.001), but 75% of these were mild or moderate. Most frequent were euphoria (9), dizziness (5), thinking abnormalities (5) and sedation (4).

Further investigation is amply justified. Careful monitoring of possible effects upon the immune system is needed, although a prospective multi-centre study (Kaslow et al, 1989), which followed nearly 5000 HIV-positive men for 18 months, showed no link between use of psychoactive substances and mean T-cell counts or progression to AIDS.

Cannabinoids are effective analgesics in animal models with non-opiate mechanisms predominating. There are many anecdotal reports (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993) of benefits in bone and joint pain, migraine, cancer pain, menstrual cramps and labour.

Five small RCTs (Table 3) show that THC is significantly superior to placebo and produces dose-related analgesia peaking at around 5 hours, comparable to but out-lasting that of codeine. Side-effects were also dose-related, and consisted of slurred speech, sedation and mental clouding, blurred vision, dizziness and ataxia. Levonantradol was also superior to placebo and notably long-acting, but almost half the patients reported sedation. Cannabinoids may have considerable potential in neuropathic pain (Institute of Medicine, 1999).


Table 3 Human randomised controlled trials (RCTs): pain

Raised intra-ocular pressure
Glaucoma due to obstructed outflow of aqueous humour or anatomical eye defects is the most common cause of blindness in the Western world. Some RCTs investigating this area are given in Table 4.


Table 4 Human randomised controlled trials (RCTs): raised intra-ocular pressure (IOP)

There have been many anecdotal reports that street marijuana can relieve glaucoma symptoms and individuals have successfully argued in the USA for legal access to the drug (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993). A pilot study of smoked marijuana and oral THC (15 mg) in 11 glaucoma patients found an average intra-ocular pressure (IOP) reduction of 30% in seven subjects and no response in four (Hepler et al, 1976).

Randomised controlled trials in volunteers confirmed that oral, injected or smoked cannabinoids produce dose-related reductions of IOP (Hepler et al, 1976; Perez-Reyes et al, 1976). Conjunctival engorgement and tear reduction were often noted. THC, [DELTA]8-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC are more effective than cannabinol, while cannabidiol was without effect. Tolerance may develop on multiple dosing.

An RCT in patients showed IOP reductions of similar magnitude following smoked THC along with "alterations in mental status" and tachycardia (Merritt et al, 1980). THC eyedrops produced dose-related IOP reduction with minimal side-effects though parallel reductions in the untreated eye (also seen in animal models) suggested a systemic rather than local mode of action.

Insomnia, anxiety and depression
Randomised controlled trials investigating insomnia, anxiety and depression are given in Table 5.


Table 5 Human randomised controled trials (RCTs): insomnia, anxiety, depression

Nabilone (1 mg three times daily) produced "dramatic improvements" on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale in 20 anxious patients in comparison to placebo (P<0.001), which were mirrored by other measures (Fabre & McLendon, 1981). Seven days into the study, nabilone patients' anxiety scores were halved, and this persisted unchanged throughout treatment. Side-effects included dry mouth, dry eyes and drowsiness. The authors concluded that nabilone is a "very effective anxiolytic deserving of further study". In a cross-over comparison of nabilone (1-2.5 mg twice daily) and placebo in 11 anxious patients (Ilaria et al, 1981), significant improvements in anxiety scores (P<0.05) were again noted. The only clinically significant adverse effect was postural hypotension with related dizziness, light-headedness or weakness. This was dose-related, experienced by most patients, and tended to tolerate out over time.

Preliminary data suggest that cannabidiol (160 mg) may be an effective hypnotic, and that THC (0.1 mg/kg) may have antidepressant properties in cancer patients and others (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993).

Epilepsy afflicts 1% of the world's population. Conventional anticonvulsants provide unsatisfactory control for up to 30% of patients, and all can produce disabling or even life-threatening adverse effects.

The effect of cannabinoids on seizure activity in laboratory animals is complicated. Cannabidiol is a powerful anti-convulsant free of tolerance, but its profile varies between species. THC can produce seizures in big doses or when genetically seizure-sensitive animals are used, yet it is also robustly anticonvulsant in certain seizure models. A lack of stereospecificity suggests that the mechanism may not be related to a single receptor interaction. Serotonin, [gamma]-aminobutyric acid, acetylcholine or prostaglandin systems may be involved.

There are many anecdotal reports of beneficial effects in humans with epilepsy (Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1993) but research data are virtually non-existent. Two single-case reports (Keeler & Reifler, 1967; Consroe et al, 1975) give confounding information. A young man suffered seizures on his regular medication and began smoking several cannabis cigarettes nightly alongside this. No further seizures occurred while this combination was maintained. In contrast, a man with grand mal epilepsy stopped taking anticonvulsants and suffered no fits for 6 months. He then smoked cannabis on seven occasions over a 3-week period and suffered three fits during this time, although not coincident with actual intoxication.

Only one RCT (Cunha et al, 1980) exists. Fifteen poorly controlled patients with secondary generalised epilepsy continued with their regular therapy but were also given either cannabidiol or placebo daily for up to 4.5 months while undergoing regular clinical and electroencephalogram evaluation. Half the patients on cannabidiol remained "almost free" of fits throughout the experiment, and all but one of the others showed "partial improvement". All but one of the placebo patients remained entirely unchanged. Somnolence occurred in four patients receiving cannabidiol.

Small-scale controlled studies in volunteers with asthma show that oral, smoked and aerosolised THC has comparable bronchodilatory activity to salbutamol, although onset is quicker with the latter. Dose-related tachycardia occurred in some individuals, and subjective intoxication with higher doses. A THC aerosol was free of systemic unwanted effects, but was irritant to the lungs (Tashkin et al, 1977). Nabilone does not produce bronchodilation. Since THC-induced bronchodilation is not mediated through the sympathetic nervous system, synergistic combinations with [beta]2-adrenoceptor stimulants might be possible.

Other possible therapeutic applications
Basic research indicates that THC and analogues inhibit opioid withdrawal (Chesher & Jackson, 1985). Anecdotal reports from patients also point to beneficial effects beyond those which could be accounted for by sedative or hypnotic activity. Cannabinoids inhibit primary tumour growth and increase survival in animal tumour models (Harris et al, 1976) by an unknown mechanism. They also show antipyretic and anti-inflammatory activity (Formukong et al, 1989). Mechoulam (1986) has drawn attention to the lack of modern research directed at possible antihelmintic, antimigraine and oxytocic applications.

Therapeutic profile on existing evidence
Tetrahydrocannabinol and nabilone are effective anti-emetics but there are no comparisons with 5-HT3 antagonists, so a role in modern anti-emetic regimes remains to be determined. Currently, only nabilone is licensed in the UK and available for prescription and research. THC (as dronabinol) has recently been rescheduled to permit prescription but remains unlicensed and must be specially imported on a named-patient basis. Delta-8-THC looks worthy of further investigation, particularly in children, and is much simpler to synthesise than THC.

Many individuals with MS have claimed a benefit from cannabis and small controlled trials support this, although effect upon posture and balance requires clarification. THC is an effective analgesic at the expense of sedation with larger doses and may have special merit in neuropathic pain. No conclusions are possible as yet about anticonvulsant potential. Some cannabinoids reduce IOP, though side-effects of products currently available limit application and effects of tolerance are uncertain. The mechanism for bronchodilation probably differs from that of [beta]2-stimulants, so synergistic combinations may be possible.

Cannabis and THC are effective appetitc stimulants. Alongside anti-emetic, analgesic, anxiolytic, hypnotic and antipyretic properties this suggests a unique role in alleviating symptoms in selected patients with cancer or AIDS. This is a compelling area for future research, although possible effects upon immune function require careful monitoring.

Optimal doses and routes of delivery have not been established. Absorption by the oral route is unreliable. Smoking the drug is generally not a viable option since advantages such as rapid onset, accurate titration of effects and reliability in patients who are vomiting have to be set against the likelihood of lung irritation or damage, and it would in any case be unacceptable to most patients. However, pending availability of more satisfactory preparations, I believe that the existing profile of efficacy and toxicity justifies the provision of a legal supply of standardised herbal material ('compassionate reefers') to patients with terminal conditions who currently obtain relief with street cannabis. Sublingual sprays or tablets, nebulisers and aerosols look promising for the future, and THC is effective by the rectal route. Many potentially active cannabinoids have yet to be investigated and the recent identification of a peripheral receptor may lead to new drugs devoid of central nervous system effects.

Cannabis arouses passion in those who support or condemn it, and few people approach the clinical literature with dispassionate objectivity. Poorly controlled research produces ambiguous results which are then interpreted according to the prejudices of the reader. Anecdotes seem to be more readily accepted when they point to adverse rather than positive effects (Hall et al, 1994). Yet the known adverse effects of oral cannabinoids are rarely intolerable or life-threatening, in contrast to those associated with some standard therapies. A British Medical Association survey indicated that many UK doctors believe that cannabis should once again be available on prescription (Meek, 1994).

The way forward
A Select Committee of the House of Lords recently examined the scientific information concerning medical cannabis and took verbal and written evidence from a wide range of witnesses. Their conclusion (House of Lords, 1998) published in November 1998, was that, although cannabis should remain a controlled drug, the law should be changed to allow doctors to prescribe "an appropriate preparation of cannabis if they saw fit". The government rejected this recommendation on the day of publication.

Under the auspices of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, large-scale multi-centre trials are under way to explore further the efficacy of cannabinoids in relieving spasticity and postoperative pain. A pharmaceutical company has obtained a licence to cultivate medicinal cannabis on a large scale in the UK. By selecting a specific genotype then carefully controlling all other relevant variables such as soil conditions, temperature and humidity, it is possible to obtain levels of purity in plant extracts equal or superior to those of 'pure' synthetic cannabinoids. Most of the 60 or so naturally occurring cannabinoids are present in tiny amounts, and synthetic cannabinoids such as nabilone themselves contain up to 5% impurities, some of which are of unknown identity. Whether obtained by synthetic means or by plant extraction, it is essential that cannabinoids for prescription and research in the future should demonstrate excellent purity, stability and bioavailability.

The medicinal properties of cannabis are still mainly delineated by the anecdotal reports of those who believe their symptoms are relieved by its use, and these accounts are often dismissed as wishful thinking or even mischievous. Since the conventional treatments for many of these disorders are both toxic and relatively ineffectual, a more constructive response would be to expose such claims to careful scientific examination and, in the meantime, search for a way to avoid criminalising those who seek only to assuage their own suffering.

* Cannabis and its derivatives show promise of beneficial effects in a number of medical conditions for which standard treatment is less than satisfactory, and further controlled research is fully justified.
* Cannabis is very safe in overdose, but often produces unwanted effects which are better tolerated by patients with some conditions (e.g. multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, AIDS, cancer) than others (e.g. glaucoma).
* Optimal for mutations, doses and routes of delivery have not yet been established.

* Because of imposed time constraints, the review is not fully comprehensive, although all accessed sources were incorporated.
* Much of the evidence is anecdotal, and many of the research studies cited have serious methodological shortcomings.
* Few researchers (or reviewers) approach the subject of cannabinoid therapeutics in a spirit of dispassionate objectivity.

This review was originally commissioned and funded by the Department of Health. The author thanks Dr Anthony Thorley for his support and encouragement. The views expressed in the paper are those of the author and not necessarily of the Department of Health.

Existing anti-emetics
Phenothiazzines and butyrophenones can cause sedation, movement disorders which may be irreversible, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, hypotension, allergic reactions, jaundice, hypothermia, hormonal disturbances, irreversible eye damage and, rarely, life-threatening anaemias. Domperidone has a more benign profile but is not recommended for long-term use. Metoclopramide produces movement disorders (1% of patients), dizziness and drowsiness. Selective 5-HT3 antagonists (ondansetron, granisetron) are newer and more expensive. Side-effects include constipation, headache, flushing, liver enzyme changes, allergic reactions, visual disturbances, chest pain and dysrhythmias.

Existing neurological treatments
Baclofen alleviates spasticity, but may accentuate muscle weakness. It produces dose-related nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, vertigo, confusion, fatigue and hypotonia. Less commonly, fits, psychiatric disorder and hypotension occur. Sudden withdrawal can cause hallucinations. Diazepam is useful but can worsen weakness or incoordination and cause drowsiness; ataxia, depression, disinhibition and dependence. Dantrolene may cause weakness, hypotonia, drowsiness, dizziness, vertigo and anxiety. Rarely, it damages the liver, and is not recommended in those with co-existing heart or lung disease.

Existing glaucoma treatments
Eye-drops. Miotics can produce blurring of vision, headache, and parasympathetic effects including sweating, bradycardia, colic and bronchospasm. Adrenaline often causes local discomfort. Dipivefrine and guanethicline may cause conjunctival fibrosis on chronic use. Beta-blockers may cause bradycardia, heart block or bronchoconstriction.

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Cunha, J. M., Carlini, E. A., Pereira, A. E., et al (1980) Chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers and epileptic patients. Pharmacology, 21, 175-185. [Context Link]

Dalzell, A. H., Bartlett, H. & Lilleyman, J. S. (1986) Nabilone: an alternative antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy. Annals of Diseases of Childhood, 61, 502-505.

Doblin, R. E. & Kleiman, M. A. R. (1991) Marijuana as anti-emetic medicine: a survey of oncologists' experiences and attitudes. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 9, 1314-1319. [Context Link]

Einhorn, L. H., Nagy, C., Furnas, B., et al (1981) Nabilone: an effective antiemetic in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21 (suppl. 8-9), 64S-69S.

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Foltin, R. W., Brady, J. V. & Fischman, M. W. (1986) Behavioral analysis of marijuana effects on food intake in humans. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 25, 577-582.

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Greenberg, H. S., Werness, S. A. S., Pugh, J. E., et al (1994) Short term effects of smoking marijuana on balance in patients with multiple sclerosis and normal volunteers. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 55, 324-328. [Context Link]

Grinspoon, L. & Bakalar, J. B. (1993) Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press. [Context Link]

Gross, H., Ebert, M. H., Faden, V. B., et al (1983) A double-blind trial of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in primary anorexia nervosa. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 3, 165 171.

Hall, W., Solowij, N. & Lemon, J. (eds) (1994) The Health and Psychological Consequences of Cannabis Use, National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 25. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. [Context Link]

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Hepler, R. S., Frank, I. M. & Petrus, R. (1976) The ocular effects of marihuana smoking. In The Pharmacology of Marihuana (eds M. C. Braude & S. Szara). New York: Raven Press. [Context Link]

Holdcroft, A., Smith, M., Jacklin, A., et al (1997) Pain relief with oral cannabinoids in familial Mediterranean fever. Anaesthesia, 52, 483-488.

Hollister, L. E. (1971) Hunger and appetite after single doses of marihuana, alcohol, and dextroamphetamine. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 12, 44-49. [Context Link]

House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (1988) Cannabis: The Scientific and Medical Evidence (HL Paper 151). London: HMSO.

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Jones, R. T., Benowitz, N. L. & Herning, R. I. (1981) Clinical relevance of cannabis tolerance and dependence. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 21 (suppl. 8-9), 143S-152S.

Jones, S. E., Durant, J. R., Greco, F. A., et al (1982) A multi-institutional Phase III study of nabilone vs. placebo in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Cancer Treatment Review, 9 (suppl. B), 45-48.

Kaslow, R. A., Blackwelder, W. C., Ostrow, D. G., et al (1989) No evidence for a role of alcohol or other psychoactive drugs in accelerating immunodeficiency in HIV-I-positive individuals. Journal of the American Medical Association, 261, 3424-3429. [Context Link]

Keeler, M. H. & Reifler, C. B. (1967) Grand mal convulsions subsequent to marihuana use. Diseases of the Nervous System, 18, 474-475. [Context Link]

Lane, M., Vogel, C. L. & Ferguson, J. (1991) Dronabinol and prochlorperazine in combination are better than either agent alone for treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, 8, 326.

Levitt, M. (1986) Cannabinoids as antiemetics in cancer chemotherapy. In Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents (ed. R. Mechoulam). Boca Raton, FA: CRC Press. [Context Link]

Maurer, M., Henn, V., Dittrich, A., et al (1990) Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol shows antispastic and analgesic effects in a single case double-blind trial. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 240, 1-4.

Mechoulam, R. (1986) The pharmacohistory of Cannabis sativa. In Cannabinoids as Therapeutic Agents (ed. R. Mechoulam), pp. 1-19. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. [Context Link]

Meek, C. (1994) Doctors want cannabis prescriptions allowed. BMA News Review, 15 February, p. 15. [Context Link]

Merritt, J. C., Crawford, W. J., Alexander, P. C., et al (1980) Effect of marihuana on intraocular and blood pressure in glaucoma. Ophthalmology, 87, 222-228.[Context Link]

Merritt, J. C., Olsen, J. L., Armstrong, J. R., et al (1981) Topical delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in hypertensive glaucomas. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 33, 40-41.

Niederle, N., Shütte, J. & Schmidt, C. G. (1986) Crossover comparison of the antiemetic efficacy of nabilone and alizapride in patients with nonseminomatous testicular cancer receiving cisplatin therapy. Klinische Wochenschrift, 64, 362-365.

Niiranen, A. & Mattson, K. (1985) A cross-over comparison of nabilone and prochlorperazine for emesis induced by cancer chemotherapy. American Journal of Clinical Oncology, 8, 336-340.

Noyes, R. Jr, Brunk, S. F., Baram, D. A., et al (1975a) Analgesic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 15, 139-143.

Noyes, R. Jr, Brunk, S. F., Avery, D. A. H., et al (1975b) The analgesic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and codeine. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 18, 84-89.

Orr, L. E. & McKernan, J. G. (1981) Antiemetic effect of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in chemotherapy-associated nausea and emesis as compared to placebo and compazine. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21 (suppl. 8-9), 76S-80S.

Penta, J. S., Poster, D. S., Bruno, S., et al (1981) Clinical trials with anti-emetic agents in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21 (suppl. 8-9), 11S-22S. [Context Link]

Perez-Reyes, M., Wagner, D., Wall, M. E., et al (1976) Intravenous administration of cannabinoids and intraocular pressure. In The Pharmacology of Marihuana (eds M. C. Braude & S. Szara), pp. 829 832. New York: Raven Press. [Context Link]

Pertwee, R. G. (1995) Pharmacological, physiological and clinical implications of the discovery of cannabinoid receptors: an overview. In Cannabinoid Receptors (ed. R. Pertwee), pp. 1-34. Harcourt Brace. [Context Link]

Petro, D. J. & Ellenberger, C. (1981) Treatment of human spasticity with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 21 (suppl. 8-9), 413S-416S. [Context Link]

Plasse, T. F., Gorter, R. W., Krasnow, S. H., et al (1991) Recent clinical experience with dronabinol. Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behaviour, 40, 695-700. [Context Link]

Pomeroy, M., Fennelly, J. J. & Towers, M. (1986) Prospective randomized double-blind trial of nabilone versus domperidone in the treatment of cytotoxic-induced emesis. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 17, 285-288.

Regelson, W., Butler, J. R., Schuiz, J., et al (1976) Delta-9-THC as an effective antidepressant and appetite-stimulating agent in advanced cancer patients. In The Pharmacology of Marihuana (eds M. C. Braude & S. Szara), pp. 763-775. New York: Raven Press. [Context Link]

Reynolds, J. R. (1890) Therapeutic uses and toxic effects of cannabis indica. Lancet, i, 637-638. [Context Link]

Sallan, S. E., Zinberg, N. E. & Frei, E. 3rd (1975) Antiemetic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. New England Journal of Medicine, 293, 795-797. [Context Link]

Tashkin, D. P., Reiss, S., Shapiro, B. J., et al (1977) Bronchial effects of aerosolized delta-9-THC in healthy and asthmatic subjects. American Review of Respiratory Disease, 115, 57-65. [Context Link]

Ungerleider, J. T., Andrysiak, T., Fairbanks, L., et al (1982) Cannabis and cancer chemotherapy: a comparison of oral delta-9-THC and prochlorperazine. Cancer, 50, 636-645.

Ungerleider, J. T., Andrysiak, T., Fairbanks, L., et al (1987) Delta-9-THC in the treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Advances in Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, 7, 39-50. [Context Link]


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Anti- Tumor Effects

by GW Pharmaceuticals

Emerging research indicates that cannabinoids may help protect against the development of certain types of tumors. Most recently, a Spanish research team reported in Nature that injections of synthetic THC eradicated malignant brain tumors - so-called gliomas - in one-third of treated rats, and prolonged life in another third by as much as six weeks.Team leader Manuel Guzman called the results "remarkable" and speculated that they "may provide a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of malignant gliomas.  An accompanying commentary remarked that this was the first convincing study to demonstrate that cannabis-based treatment may combat cancer. Other journals have also recently reported on cannabinoids' antitumoral potential.

Earlier studies also indicate that cannabinoids may successfully stave certain types of tumors. One study examined the effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), delta-8-THC, and cannabinol (CBN) on cancer cells in mice lungs. Researchers reported that cannabinoids reduced the size of the tumors by 25 to 82 percent, depending on dose and duration of treatment, with a corresponding increase in survival time. A two-year federal study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found that mice and rats given high doses of THC over long periods of time appeared to have greater protection against malignancies than untreated controls. Researchers concluded that in both mice and rats, "the incidence of benign and malignant neoplasms was decreased in a dose dependent manner."  Dr. Lester Grinspoon writes in Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine (with James Bakalar) that other animal studies also suggest that some cannabinoids have tumor-reducing properties. 

An Italian research team reported in 1998 that the endocannabinoid anandamide, which binds to the same brain receptors as cannabis, "potently and selectively inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in vitro" by interfering with their DNA production cycle. Non-mammary tumor cells were not affected by anandamide. Clearly, further research is necessary and appropriate.



  1. I. Galve-Roperph et al. "Antitumoral action of cannabinoids: involvement of sustained ceramide accumulation of ERK activation." Nature Medicine 6 (2000): 313-319.
  2. ACM Bulletin. "THC destroys brain cancer in animal research," March 5, 2000.
  3. D. Piomelli. "Pot of gold for glioma therapy." Nature Medicine 6 (2000): 255-256.
  4. J. Benard. "Cannabinoids, among others, send malignant tumors to nirvana." Bull Cancer 87 (2000): 299-300.
  5. J. Molnar et al. "Membrane associated with antitumor effects of crocine-ginsenoside and cannabinoid derivatives." Anticancer Res 20 (2000): 861-867.
  6. L. Ruiz et al. "Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol induces apoptosis in human prostate PC-3 cells via a receptor-independent mechanism." FEBS Letter 458 (1999): 400-404.
  7. S. Baek et al. "Antitumor activity of cannabigerol against human oral epitheloid carcinoma cells." Arch Pharm Res 21 (1998): 353-356.
  8. L. Harris et al., "Anti-tumoral Properties of Cannabinoids," The Pharmacology of Marihuana, ed. M. Braude et al., 2 vols., New York: Raven Press (1976) 2: 773-776 as cited by L. Grinspoon et al., Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine (second edition), New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (1997), 173.
  9. J. James, "Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer," AIDS Treatment News 263 (1997).
  10. "Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of 1 trans-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in F344N/N Rats and BC63F1 Mice," National Institutes of Health National Toxicology Program, NIH Publication No. 97-3362 (November 1996).
  11. L. Grinspoon et al., Marihuana: "The Forbidden Medicine" (second edition), 173.
  12. L. De Petrocellis et al., The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95 (1998): 8375-8380.
  13. "Pot Chemicals Might Inhibit Breast Tumors, Stroke Damage," Dallas Morning News, July 13, 1998.

Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise

 Cancer Discovery

  1. Sami Sarfaraz
  2. Vaqar M. Adhami
  3. Deeba N. Syed
  4. Farrukh Afaq
  5. Hasan Mukhtar

Requests for reprints:
Hasan Mukhtar, Department of Dermatology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1300, University Avenue, Medical Sciences Center, B-25, Madison, WI 53706. Phone: 608-263-3927; Fax: 608-263-5223; E-mail:



Cannabinoids are a class of pharmacologic compounds that offer potential applications as antitumor drugs, based on the ability of some members of this class to limit inflammation, cell proliferation, and cell survival. In particular, emerging evidence suggests that agonists of cannabinoid receptors expressed by tumor cells may offer a novel strategy to treat cancer. Here, we review recent work that raises interest in the development and exploration of potent, nontoxic, and nonhabit forming cannabinoids for cancer therapy. [Cancer Res 2008;

 Figure 1.Figure 1.

Schematic representation of signaling pathways associated with cannabinoid receptor activation induced by its agonists. Upon receptor binding, cannabinoid receptor agonists inhibit cell proliferation through inhibition of cAMP-dependent protein kinase, which activates mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK). Stimulation of ceramide synthesis via activation of serine pamitoyltranferase (SPT) up-regulates p8, leading to the subsequent induction of apoptosis. Cannabinoid receptor agonists also activates MAPKs and PI3K/Akt pathways; sustained activation of ERK1/2 leads to the induction of cyclin kinase inhibitor p27/KIP1with modulation of cell cycle regulatory molecules, resulting in G1 arrest and apoptosis. The proposed mechanisms are based on the available literature and are cell specific, and not all pathways are triggered simultaneously. Further studies are needed to unravel the detailed mechanism of action of cannabinoid receptor activation by their agonists. CHOP, CAAT/enhancer binding protein homologous protein; PARP, poly(ADP)ribose polymerase; cdk, cyclin-dependent kinase. PKA, cAMP-dependent kinase.



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Cannabinoids and cancer: pros and cons of an antitumour strategy

Maurizio Bifulco, Chiara Laezza, Simona Pisanti, and Patrizia Gazzerro

 Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Via Ponte Don Melillo, Fisciano 84084, Salerno, Italy


In the last two decades, research has dramatically increased the knowledge of cannabinoids biology and pharmacology. In mammals, compounds with properties similar to active components of Cannabis sativa, the so called ‘endocannabinoids', have been shown to modulate key cell-signalling pathways involved in cancer cell growth, invasion and metastasis. To date, cannabinoids have been licensed for clinical use as palliative treatment of chemotherapy, but increased evidences showed direct antiproliferative actions of cannabinoid agonists on several tumour cells in vitro and in animal models. In this article, we will review the principal molecular pathways modulated by cannabinoids on cancer and summarize pros and cons evidence on the possible future use of endocannabinoid-based drugs in cancer therapy.


The endocannabinoid system, that is, the cannabinoid receptors, endogenous cannabinoid ligands and endocannabinoid-metabolizing enzymes, has drawn a great deal of scientist attention during the past 15 years. The use of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer chemotherapy side effects was the most studied potential therapeutic application. Powerful chemotherapy side effects can be very severe and intolerable: reported beneficial effects from cannabinoids use, in chemotherapy patients, are a reduced incidence and severity of emesis, appetite stimulation, improvement of cachexia and pain inhibition. Marijuana's major active principle, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been licensed for clinical use as palliative treatment for cancer patients, in two preparations, dronabinol and its analogue nabilone. Moreover, mammals produce at least two endogenous compounds anandamide (AEA, N-arachidonoyl-ethanolamine) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) selectively acting on the same receptors as THC.
The ‘endocannabinoid' system seems to be involved in an increasing number of diseases and to hold promise for development of new therapeutic drugs without psychoactive effects peculiar to THC. Increasing evidence showed a direct antitumour activity of cannabinoid agonists in a plethora of tumour cells including breast, brain, skin, thyroid, prostate and colorectal. This effect was due to the inhibition of tumour growth mediated by cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis, as well as reduction in neovascularization and metastases. When these findings will be supported by in vivo studies, beside their therapeutical implication, they might open new insight on endogenous mechanisms of tumour suppression.
 Table 2
 Effects of cannabinoids on tumour biology: modulation of key cell-signalling pathways involved in control of cell fate... read more here
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Cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer

Alexander A, Smith PF, Rosengren RJ

Cannabinoids, the active components of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, along with their endogenous counterparts and synthetic derivatives, have elicited anti-cancer effects in many different in vitro and in vivo models of cancer. While the various cannabinoids have been examined in a variety of cancer models, recent studies have focused on the role of cannabinoid receptor agonists (both CB(1) and CB(2)) in the treatment of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. This review will summarize the anti-cancer properties of the cannabinoids, discuss their potential mechanisms of action, as well as explore controversies surrounding the results.



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Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Feb;23(1):117-31.

Pisanti S, Malfitano AM, Grimaldi C, Santoro A, Gazzerro P, Laezza C, Bifulco M.

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Salerno, Italy.


Cannabinoids (the active components of Cannabis sativa) and their derivatives have received renewed interest in recent years due to their diverse pharmacological activities. In particular, cannabinoids offer potential applications as anti-tumour drugs, based on the ability of some members of this class of compounds to limit cell proliferation and to induce tumour-selective cell death. Although synthetic cannabinoids may have pro-tumour effects in vivo due to their immunosuppressive properties, predominantly inhibitory effects on tumour growth and migration, angiogenesis, metastasis, and also inflammation have been described. Emerging evidence suggests that agonists of cannabinoid receptors expressed by tumour cells may offer a novel strategy to treat cancer. In this chapter we review the more recent results generating interest in the field of cannabinoids and cancer, and provide novel suggestions for the development, exploration and use of cannabinoid agonists for cancer therapy, not only as palliative but also as curative drugs.



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A Population-Based Case-Control Study of Marijuana Use and Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  1. Caihua Liang1
  2. Michael D. McClean3
  3. Carmen Marsit
  4. Brock Christensen
  5. Edward Peters
  6. Heather H. Nelson
  7. Karl T. Kelsey

- Author Affiliations

  1. Authors' Affiliations: Departments of 1Community Health and 2Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; 3Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; 4Louisiana State University Heath Sciences Center, School of Public Health, New Orleans, Louisiana; and 5Masonic Cancer Center, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  1. Requests for reprints:
    Karl T. Kelsey, Department of Community Health, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI. Phone: 401-863-6420; Fax: 401-863-9008; E-mail:


Cannabinoids, constituents of marijuana smoke, have been recognized to have potential antitumor properties. However, the epidemiologic evidence addressing the relationship between marijuana use and the induction of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is inconsistent and conflicting.

Cases (n = 434) were patients with incident HNSCC disease from nine medical facilities in the Greater Boston, MA area between December 1999 and December 2003. Controls (n = 547) were frequency matched to cases on age (±3 years), gender, and town of residence, randomly selected from Massachusetts town books. A questionnaire was adopted to collect information on lifetime marijuana use (decade-specific exposures) and associations evaluated using unconditional logistic regression.

After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of HNSCC [odds ratio (OR)10-<20 years versus never users, 0.38; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.22-0.67]. Among marijuana users moderate weekly use was associated with reduced risk (OR0.5-<1.5 times versus <0.5 time, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.32-0.85). The magnitude of reduced risk was more pronounced for those who started use at an older age (OR15-<20 years versus never users, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.30-0.95; OR≥20 years versus never users, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.17-0.90; Ptrend < 0.001). These inverse associations did not depend on human papillomavirus 16 antibody status. However, for the subjects who have the same level of smoking or alcohol drinking, we observed attenuated risk of HNSCC among those who use marijuana compared with those who do not.

Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of HNSCC.



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Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?

A young man smokes marijuana before the 10th annual ''Marijuana March'' in downtown Toronto May 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
 NEW YORK | Tue Aug 25, 2009

(Reuters Health) - You've heard about using marijuana and drugs derived from it to keep some of the side effects of toxic cancer chemotherapy in check. But what if smoking marijuana for 10 to 20 years could actually protect against certain tumors?

In a study, researchers have found that long-term pot smokers were roughly 62 percent less likely to develop head and neck cancers than people who did not smoke pot.

The new study featured 434 patients with head and neck cancers, which include tumors in the mouth, tongue, nose, sinuses, throat and lymph nodes in the neck, and 547 individuals without these cancers seen in the Greater Boston area from December 1999 to December 2003.

After factoring out the impact of smoking, drinking, and other factors that might influence the results, smoking marijuana from once every two weeks to three times every two weeks, on average, was associated with about half the risk of head and neck cancer, compared with less frequent use.

Those who took up pot smoking at an older age appeared to have less risk of these cancers than those who started it at a younger age.

Compared to people who never smoked pot, those who began smoking marijuana between the ages of 15 and 19 years were 47 percent less likely to develop head and neck cancer, while users who began at age 20 or older had a 61 percent reduced risk, Kelsey and colleagues found.

It's unclear why marijuana would prevent cancer, if in fact the study is borne out by others, but the authors note that chemicals in pot called cannabinoids have been shown to have potential antitumor effects. Other studies have linked marijuana use to a reduced risk of some cancers, such as cancer of the prostate, and now head and neck cancer.

It's also been suggested that smoking pot may help stave off Alzheimer's disease and help combat weight loss associated with AIDS, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients.

Overall, however, research on the effects of marijuana on human health is mixed. Some studies have suggested the drug can increase a person's risk of heart attack or stroke and cause some cancers such as lung cancer.

In the journal Cancer Prevention Research, the researchers emphasize that further research from larger studies is needed to verify this link. Moreover, even if marijuana use were found to protect against these cancers, the risks of use may still outweigh this benefit, they say.

"Marijuana is an entry-level drug and can be associated with later use of more serious addictive drugs, as well as other risk behaviors," warn Dr. Karl T. Kelsey, from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues.

Any policy regarding marijuana use should take this into consideration "and should not be made based on one study's results," they note.

SOURCE: Cancer Prevention Research, August 2009.


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Cannabinoids and cancer: pros and cons of an antitumour strategy

Maurizio Bifulco, Chiara Laezza, Simona Pisanti, Patrizia Gazzerro

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Via Ponte Don Melillo, Fisciano 84084, Salerno, Italy

 Received August 22, 2005; Revised October 27, 2005; Accepted November 22, 2005


 In the last two decades, research has dramatically increased the knowledge of cannabinoids biology and pharmacology. In mammals, compounds with properties similar to active components of Cannabis sativa, the so called ‘endocannabinoids', have been shown to modulate key cell-signalling pathways involved in cancer cell growth, invasion and metastasis. To date, cannabinoids have been licensed for clinical use as palliative treatment of chemotherapy, but increased evidences showed direct antiproliferative actions of cannabinoid agonists on several tumour cells in vitro and in animal models. In this article, we will review the principal molecular pathways modulated by cannabinoids on cancer and summarize pros and cons evidence on the possible future use of endocannabinoid-based drugs in cancer therapy.


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Marijuana May Prevent Cancer, Not Cause It

12 April 12 2008 - The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA

By Lanny Swerdlow

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars on advertisements and printed material declaring that marijuana causes cancer. The truth is just the opposite - marijuana can prevent cancer. Recent research has shown that the cannabinoids found in marijuana can not only halt the spread of cancer but can also kill cancer cells.

A study conducted in 2005 by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the UCLA School of Medicine demonstrated that people who smoke marijuana are at less risk of developing lung cancer than tobacco smokers. The study of 2,200 people in Los Angeles found that even heavy marijuana smokers were no more likely to develop lung, head or neck cancer than non-users. In comparison, tobacco users' risk of cancer increases the more they smoke.

Data in Dr. Tashkin's study suggest that people who smoke marijuana are less likely to develop lung cancer than people who do not smoke anything at all. Since marijuana smoke contains the same cancer-causing agents as tobacco and the only difference between the nonsmokers and the marijuana smokers was their use of cannabis, then it is not an unreasonable hypothesis that marijuana can prevent the development of cancer.

In 2003, Dr. Manual Guzman at the Complutense University in Madrid Spain published a research paper entitled Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents. Dr. Guzman's research on the brains of laboratory rats found that the cannabinoids in cannabis inhibit tumor growth and are selective antitumor compounds, as they can kill tumor cells without affecting noncancerous cells.

Investigators at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reported in January 2008 that the administration of cannabinoids halts the spread of a wide range of cancers, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, and lymphoma. The report noted that cannabis offer significant advantages over standard chemotherapy treatments because the cannabinoids in cannabis are both non-toxic and can uniquely target malignant cells while ignoring healthy ones.

Is the evidence incontrovertible that cannabis can inhibit the spread of cancer, kill cancer cells and prevent the development of cancer?

No it is not - but doctors are telling millions of people to spend billions of dollars and ingest all kinds of supplements on way less evidence than there is to support the anti-cancer properties of cannabis.

When taking any kind of medicine or supplement, a person needs to decide if the claimed benefits of a product outweigh the risks. Many times the answer is no.

Cannabis is not one of these products, as there has never been a single death attributed to cannabis or any other significant debilitating consequences.

Further, the vast majority of cannabis users report numerous beneficial effects.

If cannabis can prevent the development of cancer, then the appropriate ingestion of cannabis is desirable in the same way that the appropriate ingestion of calcium supplements can prevent or at least delay the onset of osteoporosis. Since for the vast majority of people, cannabis has no negative side effects and only beneficial effects, it would seem that the regular appropriate ingestion of cannabis as a cancer preventative agent would be a prudent course of action.


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Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer

"What other drug would increase life expectancy of rats when given in huge overdoses daily for two years?"

by John S. James

AIDS TREATMENT NEWS has obtained a 126-page draft report of a major toxicology study of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. The study was completed over two and a half years ago, and passed peer review for publication, but has been kept quiet until this month, when someone leaked copies of the draft report. As far as we know, the public has never been told about this research -- for example, the drug- reform movement seems not to have known about its existence. This work may have been hushed because its findings are not what the drug-war industry would want.

The study gave huge doses of THC to rats and mice by stomach tube, and looked for cancers and other evidence of toxicity. First there were small toxicity studies, which used enough THC to kill some of the animals; later, two-year studies were run in both rats and mice, using doses which were still much higher than those of marijuana smokers. The two-year studies tested THC in several hundred rats and several hundred mice. In rats, those given THC had a clear survival advantage over the untreated controls; this effect was statistically significant in all dose groups, and in both males and females. In mice (which were given much larger doses than the rats relative to body weight) there was no survival difference among the groups -- except that those given the highest dose (which was close to the lethal dose for mice) had worse survival.

In both mice and rats, in both males and females, "the incidence of benign and malignant neoplasms ... were decreased in a dose-dependent manner" -- meaning that the more THC the animals were given, the fewer tumors they developed.

The treated animals weighed less than the controls (even though both ate about the same amount of food); the researchers speculated that the lower body weight may have partly accounted for the increased survival and reduced tumors in the THC-treated animals.

The doses were large enough to cause seizures and convulsions in many of the animals, especially when they were dosed or handled. These did not start immediately, but after many weeks, depending on the dose. The researchers looked for brain lesions in animals which had seizures, but found none.

No evidence of carcinogenic activity in the rats, but there was "equivocal evidence" of one kind of thyroid tumor in the mice -- with no evidence of a dose-dependent response. Other tumors were less common in the treated animals than in the controls -- except in one case, which the toxicologists believed was due to the fact that the treated animals lived longer, and therefore had more opportunity to develop tumors. The report includes a professionally objective review of the biological effects, possible toxicities, and possible medical uses of THC and marijuana.

The title of the report is "NTP Technical Report on the Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of 1-Trans-Delta(9)- Tetrahydrocannabinol (CAS No. 1972-08-3) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F(1) Mice (Gavage Studies)." Over 35 researchers contributed to this study, and 12 others reviewed their work; several institutions, including the National Toxicology Program and SRI International, were involved. The document we received is report NTP TR 446, NIH Publication No. 94-3362, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ("NTP" stands for National Toxicology Program, which is made up of four Federal agencies within Health and Human Services.) Each page of the draft is stamped "not for distribution or attribution." In addition to the 126-page document we have reviewed here, there are 11 appendices, which we have not seen.

According to the draft, the report will be available from NTP Central Data Management, 919/541-1371. AIDS TREATMENT NEWS requested a copy of the final report when it is ready, and also requested a copy of the draft. Now that the existence of the report has become publicly known, we have heard that draft copies are being sent if requested -- despite the notice on each page not to distribute them.


It would be wrong to interpret this study as showing a beneficial or protective effect of marijuana. The animals were given very large doses, resulting in substantially lower body weight, which may itself have caused much of the survival and tumor improvements. Also, this study used THC, not marijuana smoke -- which like any smoke contains many chemicals, some of which are likely to be harmful. But the study does provide strong evidence that there is no significant cancer risk (if any at all) from the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana; any such risk would be from incidental substances in the smoke. And if there is such a risk, the modern high-potency marijuana would likely reduce it, by reducing the amount of smoke required to obtain the desired effect.

Also, there is no known case of any human death from overdose of marijuana or THC, or from any other acute toxicity of these substances -- a remarkable safety record, compared with alcohol, aspirin, or many other common drugs. (The toxicology report does not say there have been no deaths, but the authors listed none, after doing an exhaustive survey of the literature.)

The literature review on the effects of THC and marijuana shows how medical research has been politically skewed (although the paper itself does not state this point). There are almost no studies of possible medical uses of marijuana, but many studies looking for possible harm. Any positive findings, therefore, can be used to support the drug war -- while negative findings (those which fail to show any effect) are usually ignored. Although many doctors and patients have reported important medical benefits, scientific studies of medicinal use have seldom been allowed to happen, since positive findings could challenge the official public- relations tactic of demonization. The drug war itself has controlled the medical research agenda, since it controls legal access to marijuana. Like most permanent wars, it strives for self preservation.

The newly available Federal toxicology study provides the best evidence yet that the risks of THC are small. What other drug would increase life expectancy of rats when given in huge overdoses daily for two years? The recent Federal attacks on medical marijuana -- against doctors and desperately ill patients -- are needlessly cruel, and bizarrely inappropriate to scientific and medical understanding.

AIDS TREATMENT NEWS Published twice monthly

Editor and Publisher: John S. James


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Derivatives of cannabis for anticancer treatment

Derivatives of the cannabis plant (hashish) have been shown by a Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ph.D. student to be effective in arresting cancerous growths in laboratory and animal tests.

For her work, Natalya Kogan was one of the winners of a Kaye Innovation Award, presented today during the 68th meeting of the Hebrew University Board of governors.

Working under the supervision of Prof. Raphael Mechoulam at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy (in collaboration with Prof. Michael Schlesinger at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School and Prof. Ester Priel at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), Kogan has developed new compounds – known as quinonoid cannabinoids – that parallel in their activity a group of anti-cancer drugs, the best known of which is daunomycin.

However, while daunomycin is toxic to the heart, Kogan, with Dr. Ronen Beeri and Dr. Gergana Marincheva of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem, found that the quinonoid cannabinoids are much less cardiotoxic. The development of quinonoid compounds that display anticancer activity, but are less toxic, is a major therapeutic goal. At present, Kogan is continuing to investigate the mechanism of action of these promising compounds.

All of the compounds synthesized by Kogan inhibited cancer cell growth in cell culture, and one of them was found to markedly reduce the volume of tumors in animal studies The cannabinoid quinones were found to act through a rather unique pathway of cancer cell destruction -- by specific inhibition of topoisomerase II, an enzyme that participates in cell replication. Most of the known anti-cancer drugs are less selective, acting by numerous mechanisms.

Additionally, the most active compound in the series developed by Kogan, as well as some other cannabinoids, were found by Kogan and Prof. Ruth Galilli of the Hebrew University to have anti-angiogenic properties. Angiogenesis, the process of new blood vessel formation, is crucial for tumor growth, and much effort has been invested by researchers in the development of compounds with anti-angiogenic activity.

Since the compounds developed by Kogan have anti-cancer properties and are more selective and potent than standard chemotherapy drugs, they have a high potential for use in new anti-cancer drugs

Kogan was born in 1980 in Cherkassy, Ukraine, and immigrated to Israel in 1995. She earned B.Pharm and M.Sc degrees at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy and graduated with excellence.

She has received numerous prior awards: the Wolf Prize for junior investigators (2005); the Keren Kayemet prize (2005); and a Best Poster Award at the 2004 Symposium of the International Cannabinoids Research Society. Her Ph.D. work is supported by a personal award (for high grades and research achievements) from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University have been awarded annuallysince 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff, and students of the University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential which have benefited or will benefit the University and society.

Natalya Kogan
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