Israeli Study Finds Cannabis Means Less Chemo Better Results

Jessica McKeil February 4, 2020 1 comment

If upcoming human trials prove the same, this groundbreaking study will change the future of cancer treatment.

New research exploring cannabinoid therapy in conjunction with chemotherapy suggests cannabis could mean less chemo, better results for cancer patients. This new research is yet another possible avenue for cannabis therapy in a holistic approach to cancer treatment.

It is early days yet, but the scope of research into cannabis for cancer is growing ever more promising. First, studies have evidenced the preliminary anticancer properties of cannabinoids. Second, the plant is already an established conjunctive therapy with chemotherapy. And now, cannabis has the potential to increase the value of conventional chemotherapy treatment? It’s hard to imagine a future where cannabis isn’t an essential aspect of cancer treatment.

The History of Cannabis and Chemotherapy

In the Journal of the Association of Basic Medical Sciences (2019), the article “Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation,” summarized the relatively recent rise of cannabis as an anticancer agent.[1]Neumann-Raizel, H., Shilo, A., Lev, S., Mogilevsky, M., Katz, B., Shneor, D., … Binshtok, A. M. (2019). 2-APB and CBD-Mediated Targeting of Charged Cytotoxic Compounds Into Tumor Cells Suggests the … Continue reading

One of the first papers to analyze the antitumoral potential of cannabinoids was from 1975. Since then, there has been a slow and steady study of how many cannabinoids decrease cancer-cell migration and growth. Current research into this subject focuses on THC, CBD, ∆8-THC, CBN, CBL, and several synthetic cannabinoids. For example, how CBD could potentially have a positive effect on ovarian cancer.

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The antitumoral properties of cannabis are, by now, well-established in the early phases of research. In a petri dish, and even in animal studies, certain cannabinoids do kill cancer cells. Comprehensive human trials are still a long way off.

Cannabis in Addition Mean Less Chemo And Better Results?

A more advanced area of study is establishing cannabinoids as a conjunctive therapy with chemotherapy. Cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, frequently help reduce some of the most challenging adverse effects of chemotherapy, such as appetite suppression, nausea, vomiting, and pain.

As discussed in, “Cannabinoids for Symptom Management and Cancer Therapy: The Evidence,” the evidence behind cannabis for the treatment of cancer side effects and symptoms is low to moderate when compared to a placebo. In a recent survey of oncologists, approximately eighty percent report talking to their patients about cannabis. Cancer patients are turning to cannabis in record numbers to relieve the adverse effects of chemotherapy.[2] Davis, M. P. (2016). Cannabinoids for Symptom Management and Cancer Therapy: The Evidence. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 14(7), 915–922. doi: 10.6004/jnccn.2016.0094

But, beyond the side effects of chemotherapy, does cannabis mean less chemo for better results?

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less chemo better result represented by jars of cannabis

New Israeli Research Suggests Better Results With Less Chemo

Israeli scientists, Hagit Neumann-Raizel, Asaf Shilo, and their team, published their study, “2-APB and CBD-Mediated Targeting of Charged Cytotoxic Compounds Into Tumor Cells Suggests the Involvement of TRPV2 Channels,” in Frontiers of Pharmacology (2019).  Their research explored how the co-application of CBD (a non-intoxicating cannabis compound) alongside a chemotherapy compound (doxorubicin) improved the outcomes.[3]Dariš, B., Tancer Verboten, M., Knez, Ž., & Ferk, P. (2019). Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation. Bosnian journal of basic medical sciences, 19(1), 14–23. … Continue reading

The authors demonstrated “that the doxorubicin-mediated cell death is significantly more potent — requiring an order of magnitude lower dose — when co-applied with CBD,” when compared with another comparable compound.

In layman’s terms, in this trial, CBD meant less chemo for better results. Considering that chemotherapy has many adverse side effects, the potential here is clear. As one of the scientists explained to an Israeli publication, “We are hopeful this discovery will lead the way towards a new, more targeted delivery method for chemotherapy treatment, one that will drastically reduce patients’ pain.”

Cancer Doctors and Medical Cannabis

No matter how popular cannabis is among patients, physicians remain cautious. In the survey of American oncologists mentioned earlier, many reported possessing “shaky knowledge” about cannabis in cancer treatment. Unsurprisingly, physicians pull information about medicine from clinical trials, pharmaceutical guidelines, and other peer-reviewed sources. When it comes to medical cannabis, these conclusive resources typically don’t exist.

Even though only thirty percent of oncologists in this survey felt comfortable discussing cannabis with their patients, “nearly half of all oncologists do recommend medical cannabis to their patients,” as per NPR reporting on the subject.

Next Steps for Patients: Less Chemo Better Results?

This survey suggests that most cancer patients in the U.S. will have to do their own research on which doses, strains, and methods provide the most relief. What should cancer patients know about cannabis before diving in?

Firstly, patients should always speak with their team of physicians about cannabis. A lucky few may find they have a physician on board with medical cannabis, one who may have experience with dosing and cannabinoid profile. Patients might also get the name of a licensed physician who specializes in medical cannabis if expert oncological advice is available, it’s worth looking.

Secondly, what happens if patients can’t get the support they need through their physician? The next step is self-directed experimentation and titration. The staff at medical cannabis dispensaries can help point cancer patients in the right direction in terms of products and methods of consumption. Still, ultimately, it comes down to the patient working out the best combinations on their own.

For patients unfamiliar with the effects of cannabis, they should always start with low doses of THC and work their way up, incrementally and over a period of days. Patients should strive for maximum symptom relief with minimum intoxication. Show patience with the process, as titration up to the sweet spot can take days, if not weeks.

less chemo better result represented by same older woman but her hair is growing back and she's smiling

The Next Steps, More Research Needed to Confirm CBD’s Potential

Realistically, all areas of research exploring cannabis for cancer treatment need significantly more funding, more investigation, and more time. The conclusions made within the Israeli study are no different.

It will take years before oncologists know for sure if CBD treatment translates into less chemo and better results. This groundbreaking study must go through many new rounds of study before it makes its way into cancer treatments. Chemotherapy is a complicated treatment, and patients are wise to work closely with their team of oncologists should they wish to incorporate plant-based medicines like cannabis into the protocol.


Author avatar

Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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1 comment

  1. Great articles Jessica thank you for the work you do ! If you ever want to feature any medical Cannabis legal stories I know this area inside and out. I was the former Executive Director for the MMAR Coalition against Repeal. We fund raised over $500k, and hired veteran lawyers John Conroy Q.C. And Kirk Tousaw to create and win with costs of $689,000 against Health Canada the Infamous Allard case. I also did a lot more too, like the Health Canada class action privacy breach, I started potentially valued at up to 800 million. I have been part of the legal reform of cannabis laws for legal use, for close to 20 years now.