Researchers Call For Clinical Trials on CBD and Prostate Cancer

Marc Moulin March 20, 2019 16 comments

Preclinical research actually suggests a treatment effect between CBD and prostate cancer. Where are the human trials? 

Researchers have demonstrated that, in animal trials, large concentrations of CBD may effectively prevent metastasis, decrease cancer cell viability, and induce apoptosis. However, medically-prescribed prostate cancer treatment does not involve CBD, and won’t before there are substantial human trials to prove its effectiveness. What’s the hold-up? There is a definitive lack of randomized controlled human trials investigating the treatment effect between CBD and prostate cancer.

If there’s a cancer to push treatment on, this would be a great option. Despite treatment improvements and declining death rates, prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Prostate cancer will kill approximately 33,000 American men in the coming year. The majority of these deaths will occur in men whose prostate cancer spreads to other parts of the body. Therefore, early treatment and metastasis prevention are key. Preclinical evidence from laboratory settings and in animals suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) should be looked into as a treatment option for those with aggressive prostate cancer.

Increased Cannabinoid Receptor Expression in Prostate Cancer Cells

In a study published in Cancer Research (2005), the researchers demonstrated that the expression of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) expression was significantly higher in human prostate cancer cells.[1]Sarfaraz, S., Afaq, F., Adhami, V. M., & Mukhtar, H. (2005). Cannabinoid receptor as a novel target for the treatment of prostate cancer. Cancer Research65(5), 1635-1641.

This finding provided a rationale for treating prostate cancer with a cannabinoid receptor agonist. CBD is a cannabinoid receptor agonist. To test this, the researchers administered a different agonist. This lets them theoretically mimic the indirect action of CBD. In doing so they found that the treatment resulted in a significant dose-and time-dependent decrease in cell viability. Amazingly, it also increased cell apoptosis (programmed cell death). Furthermore, there was no significant impact on healthy prostate cells.

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man sitting with this doctor getting diagnosis

CBD’s Anti-Cancer Potential

There are multiple physiological mechanisms at work in the growth and spread of prostate cancer. In particular, metastasis is the spreading of tumors throughout the body. Metastasis is facilitated through a process called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process in which new blood vessels form, allowing the transfer of oxygen to the body’s tissues. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an angiogenic protein that regulates angiogenesis by inducing migration of endothelial cells. Interestingly, it appears to be under CBD’s control.

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In a study published in Pharmacology and Pharmacy (2014), the researchers assessed the anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects of CBD across multiple prostate cancer cell lines. They found CBD to be a potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. They also found that CBD does not negatively affect healthy prostate cells. Further, CBD downregulated CB1 and CB2, as well as VEGF. Like any tissue, tumors need a healthy supply of oxygen to grow and spread. By downregulating VEGF, it appears that CBD may prevent prostate cancer metastasis.[2]Sharma, M., Hudson, J. B., Adomat, H., Guns, E., & Cox, M. E. (2014). In vitro anticancer activity of plant-derived cannabidiol on prostate cancer cell lines. Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 5(08), … Continue reading

Inducing Prostate Cancer Apoptosis

In another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology (2013), the researchers found similar success. They found that CBD significantly inhibited cancer cell viability and induced apoptosis via intrinsic apoptotic pathway markers.[3]De Petrocellis, L., Ligresti, A., Schiano Moriello, A., Iappelli, M., Verde, R., Stott, C. G., … & Di Marzo, V. (2013). Non‐THC cannabinoids inhibit prostate carcinoma growth in vitro and … Continue reading Apoptosis was only partially achieved through TRPM8 antagonism but was also associated with a downregulation of androgen receptors and elevation of reactive oxygen species. Androgens, such as testosterone, stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow.

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Lowering androgen levels or preventing them from binding to prostate cancer cells makes prostate tumors shrink and grow more slowly. These are just a few studies demonstrating the preclinical success of CBD in studies on prostate cancer. Further support comes from CBD’s attractive safety profile.

CBD’s Safety Profile

Experts have been citing the very attractive safety profile of CBD for years. Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and will not surprise an individual with an unsolicited ‘high’. Furthermore, research demonstrates that CBD does not cause changes in food intake, induce catalepsy (trance-like or seizure state), negatively affect physiological parameters, or alter psychomotor or psychological functions. Amazingly, chronic dosages of up to 1,500 milligrams per day have been well-tolerated in humans.

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A more recent review published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2017) extended on previous research outlining that the most commonly reported CBD side effects are tiredness, diarrhea, and weight changes.[4]Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: a review of clinical data and relevant animal studies. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2(1), … Continue reading The authors conclude that when compared to other drugs targeting the same conditions, CBD had a better side effect profile. Based on the preclinical effectiveness of CBD on treating prostate cancer and the known safety of CBD treatment, why haven’t there been any human trials?

animation showing prostate cancer vs healthy prostate

Where are the CBD and Prostate Cancer Human Trials? 

There are several possible reasons for the lack of CBD and prostate cancer human trials. First, medical cannabis remains to be illegal in many countries throughout the world. When a drug is illegal, it is difficult to obtain it and conduct research. This could soon be changing as more countries legalize medical cannabis. For example, the 2018 Farm Bill which removed hemp as a Schedule 1 drug was a step in the right direction.

Second, CBD is a non-proprietary product. Large drug companies do not have the financial incentive to conduct large scale randomized controlled trials on CBD because they currently cannot patent the product.

Finally, ethical protocols make it difficult to study the effect of CBD on prostate cancer independent of other proven therapies. The first human trials will need to explore CBD as a complementary therapy, as it is not ethical to give patients an unproven therapy instead of a treatment considered best-practice. Nonetheless, the future is bright for CBD as a treatment for prostate cancer. Certainly, human trials are coming.



  1. Jim Platt

    sure all this after I had my prostate removed to stop it when it reached the stage of killing me…no consolation, after losing everything short of my life.

  2. Lili McHenry

    Hubby has PC with Gleason 7&9 (aggressive).
    What is protocol you recommend ?
    He is taking Lupron shot which dropped PSA to .02.
    Please advise. Interested in CBD with high Thc.
    And dosing protocol.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Lili – your husband should definitely speak with his oncologist. If that doctor is not cannabis literate, then seek a cannabis physician near you. Unfortunately, there are no dosing protocols at this time as human trials have not been completed.

  3. Griselda García Hernández

    Que es lo recomendable para cáncer de seno

  4. Jim Snow

    Interested in prostate Cancer info please.

  5. Thierry Pillerault

    I am in australia have prostate cancer how can i get cbd oil?

  6. Lisa Wright

    This article is being used to mislead uneducated people into “believing” their CBD “pusher”! In our world of MLM CBD pushers, this is rampant! You need to make it clear that a true cancer protocol includes both THC and CBD. Not just a low grade industrial hemp CBD. It just won’t work!

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Lisa, this article speaks to one single study that specifically looked at how CBD (and lab studies are typically done with CBD extracts or synthetically synthesized molecules that have pharmacological parity with CBD but are more precise for measuring dosage) interacted with prostate cancer cells IN THE PETRI DISH. Never do they use ‘low grade industrial hemp.’ This is an early phase trial to investigate one hypothesis about how CBD may be able to treat prostate cancer. ‘True cancer protocols’ have not been established, if you want to be completely truthful about things. Certain tumor types respond better to THC and others to CBD. Neurobalstoma is obliterated by CBD. Patients taking chemo for prostate do wonderfully taking CBD bc that cannabinoid keeps the cancer cells from pushing out the drug that is trying to kill it. In the end, we are very far off knowing which ratio to prescribe for which. So, please don’t feel misled. Take another read perhaps.

  7. Kokoette Uno

    I am just knowing this for the first time. This is awesome. My dad died of prostrate cancer in 2016 after having the sickness for 20years. He rejected any medical surgery. We just had to manage his ailments using local traditional herbal drugs. He died at the age of 98yrs. I was diagnosed of enlarged prostrate in January of 2018. I was asked to treat it with our local traditional herbal drugs which saw me having improvement. My PSA was 4.3 as at the time of diagnosis. Recently, I started having that symptoms of a full bladder even after using the urinary. My question is, can one just take this your drug as supplements? I am interested not only for myself but for friends and men whom I might come across with similar ailments. Thanks.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hello – we are not making nor selling cannabis at this time. The drug used in this study is an analogue of CBD called WIN-55,212-2. Synthetic.This is standard as it allows researchers to track exact dose. Natural CBD from cannabis is available in many regions as a supplement, particularly in America. You just want to be sure that you are purchasing an oil or tincture that is not made from hemp seed oil.

      • K Ediburn

        Why one that’s not made from Hemp oil? I would think you would want it pure. What oil should it have and why?

  8. CBD has no common mechanism of action with Win 55,212-2, so this is very misleading to compare. And WIN is also not an analogue of CBD. It is an agonist of cannabinoid receptors, more potent than THC. CBD is not an agonist at either cannabinoid receptor. This type of hype about cannabis is unconscionable.

    • Jennifer Grant

      @Michelle You’ll have to give a little more clarity on what has you upset. This article does not compare Win55,212-2 with CBD. We do, however, have a separate article on the site that addresses the exact points you brought up (i.e. THC and WIN would have greater comparability as both are agonists and which also explains why WIN is used in research and not cannabis bud). This piece is a year old and was based on a call from researchers to increase investigation of CBD for prostate cancer. And that is what the article describes. Confused.