Treat Brain Cancer?

Can CBD Reduce the Size of Tumors in Deadly, Hard-to-Treat Brain Cancer?

A new study using inhaled CBD has shown promising results in not only reducing the size of glioblastoma tumors, but in altering the environment in which it grows. Here’s what the study discovered. 

Although cannabidiol (CBD) has been used by many to relieve aches and pains, recent research suggests it can also be an effective treatment for more serious conditions. A new study using inhaled CBD has shown promising results in not only reducing the size of one of the most aggressive and least treatable forms of cancer but in altering the environment in which it grows. Here’s what the study discovered. 


One of the Deadliest Cancers


Cancer is the result of abnormal cell growth. Usually the trillions of cells in our body go through their life cycle without incident. However, occasionally these abnormal cells continue to divide and even spread. When these genetically damaged cells spread or metastasize, they can be life threatening. For most cancers, the survival rate has improved. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the brain or spinal cord.


Formed in cells that provide support for nerve cells, glioblastoma is very hard to treat. Usually, the prognosis is based on how easily it can be removed surgically. Chemotherapy and other treatments can slow the spread of this tumor but don’t offer a cure. Some 13,000 Americans are diagnosed with the condition every year; some 10,000 will die from it. The five-year survival rate for glioblastoma patients is under seven percent while most who are diagnosed with the condition live for less than a year and a half. Survival rates haven’t budged in decades. 


Usually the first sign for a patient that they have the condition is nausea or vomiting along with severe headaches that continue to worsen. They may also suffer seizures. Often it isn’t the patient but one of their loved ones who brings them to a doctor because they are having trouble remembering or undergoing a personality change. “Family members will bring patients in and say they are just not thinking right, that their memory is all over the place, or that they got fired from their job because they are no longer doing things right that they have been doing for 30 years,” explains neurosurgeon Dr. Martin Rutkowski. “It’s probably one of the most aggressive cancers period. We are in desperate need of research and more treatments.” Recently, a study looked at one of cannabis’s 100 chemical compounds as a possible treatment. The results were surprising.


CBD Shrinks Brain Tumors


Although most people associate tetrahydrocannabinol or THC with the cannabis plant, this psychoactive chemical that gets people high is just one of the many dozens of cannabinoids found in marijuana. Cannabidiol, or CBD, doesn’t have those qualities. According to advocates, it does, however, have many benefits. Produced by extracting CBD from a cannabis plant before diluting it with carrier oils like coconut oil or hemp seed oil, CBD is legally available in numerous health food stores and has been added to everything from soap to supplements.


Studies have shown it can relieve pain and even ease the symptoms of some mental health conditions. It also has been effective in patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy. It’s this benefit for people with neurological conditions that has inspired studies using CBD on glioblastomas.


A collaboration between the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University and the Medical College of Georgia, the study began by extracting modified glioblastoma cells from cancer patients. The next step involved construction of what is called an “orthotopic glioblastoma model” which was intended to provide the most realistic model possible. It took just eight days for this aggressive brain tumor to be established in the brains of mice. The next day some were given a placebo. The rest were given inhaled CBD. Much like an asthma inhaler, the device used to deliver CBD is not only simple to operate but is effective at sending the cannabinoids straight to the brain. 


Examining both images of the mice’s tumors and tissues surrounding them, researchers discovered that not only did the mice who had received the CBD have significant reduction in the size of the tumor but the tumor’s microenvironment had been altered. This means that inflammation that had previously protected the glioblastoma began attacking it. CBD also reduced glioblastoma’s ability to co-opt glial cells which normally protect the brain’s neurons but actually defend the tumor as cancer spreads. The protein P-selectin serves a similar role, also aiding tumor spread. These altered functions are one reason many treatments like immunotherapy fail. 


Although there will be more research needed before the results can be applied to human trials, the fact that tumors were reduced and benefits occurred without surgery is certainly promising.