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In spite of the increasing scientific interest to understand how cannabinoids can help to treat cancer disease, symptoms and the associated chemotherapy side effects, the existing scientific evidence is not enough to satisfy the clinical criteria to consider cannabinoids as a part of the treatment. One of the main caveats of cancer research is that we do not face just one type of cancer, but as many cancers as types of cells exist in the body. The underlying mechanisms of cancer development can be different for each type of cancer cell, and therefore specific treatments should be applied to treat them. We created a different entry for each of the most known cancer types in order to collect the scientific evidence indicating therapeutic potential of cannabinoids.

When we summarize all these scientific studies and try to come up with a general rule to use cannabinoids to treat cancer, we have to be aware of the limitations of cancer research.

Treatment of cancer symptoms and chemotherapy related side effects

Scientific studies and general patient experiences show that THC and CBD can help to treat cancer symptoms and chemotherapy side effects as pain or nausea (Maida & Daeninck, 2016; Turgeman & Bar-Sela, 2017). The route of administration for these cannabinoids can be smoked, vaporized, oral or topical. The main limitation for this type of treatment is the lack of research about the interactions between cannabinoids and chemotherapy drugs.

Treatment of cancer disease

Regarding the treatment of the disease, preclinical scientific evidence shows that several cannabinoids like THC and CBD can reduce tumors, cancer cell development and metastasis (Velasco, Sánchez, & Guzmán, 2016). However, one of the most important limitations is how cannabinoids can reach the cancer cells inside the body. The most common routes of administration and dosages used in humans could not reach the minimum concentration of cannabinoids around the cancer cells to produce an anti-cancer effect, therefore missing their therapeutic potential to treat the disease (Fowler, 2015).

Dosage of cannabinoids is not only important to reach the desired therapeutic effect, but also because different dosages could have opposite effects. In fact, few studies reported cancerogenic effects of THC and other cannabinoids in cancer cells when it was administered in low doses (Caffarel et al., 2010; Carracedo et al., 2006; Hall & MacPhee, 2002; Hart, Fischer, & Ullrich, 2004; Marselos & Karamanakos, 1999; McAllister et al., 2005; McKallip, Nagarkatti, & Nagarkatti, 2005; Sánchez, Ruiz-Llorente, Sánchez, & Díaz-Laviada, 2003; Sánchez, Sánchez, Ruiz-Llorente, & Díaz-Laviada, 2003; Zhu et al., 2000). Since we do not know the exact concentration of THC that targets cancer cells, we should be cautious when we decide to treat cancer with THC.

For more information, please, select a specific type of cancer in the list of diseases in this website.

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