Is THC or CBD better for cancer patients? | CAC
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Is THC or CBD better for cancer patients?

thc or cbd for cancer patients

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THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are both gaining attention for their potential therapeutic effects, including their ability to reduce cancer symptoms and the side effects that can be caused by cancer treatments.

But which one is better for cancer patients, or do they both promise to provide relief?

Let’s see what the currently available research says.

Key Takeaways

  • THC and Cancer: THC can induce apoptosis in cancer cells, inhibit cell proliferation, and prevent the formation of new blood vessels that nourish tumours.
  • Symptom Management with THC: THC has been well-documented in alleviating pain, reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and stimulating appetite in cancer patients.
  • CBD’s Therapeutic Potential: CBD shows promise in managing pain, inflammation, and anxiety, and may enhance the effects of conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Side Effects and Risks: THC’s psychoactive effects may not be suitable for everyone, while CBD is generally well-tolerated but can cause mild side effects and potential drug interactions.
  • Personalised Treatment: It’s vital to consult healthcare professionals to tailor THC or CBD use to the patient’s specific cancer type, stage, and overall health, ensuring it complements conventional treatments without adverse interactions.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Do you have experience with medical cannabis and cancer? Share your story in the medical cannabis review section on your clinic page here at CAC and help others make informed decisions.

thc or cbd for cancer patients

Understanding THC and CBD

While both compounds are classified as cannabinoids and share a very similar structure, they have different effects on the body.

THC explained

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is notable for its psychoactive, euphoric-inducing effects. These can include a joyful ‘high’ and changes in perception. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system by binding to cannabinoid receptors, influencing a range of physiological processes.

In the context of cancer treatment, THC is administered to alleviate symptoms like pain, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

CBD explained

CBD, or cannabidiol, does not induce psychoactive effects. Its interaction with the endocannabinoid system differs from THC’s, as it affects both cannabinoid receptors and other non-cannabinoid receptors. CBD is recognised for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and neuroprotective properties. In the realm of cancer treatment, CBD has demonstrated potential in managing pain, mitigating inflammation and alleviating anxiety.

Despite their divergent psychoactive effects, THC and CBD do share some characteristics. Both cannabinoids engage with the endocannabinoid system and both possess anti-inflammatory properties. 

They both have the capacity to influence pain perception and impact immune responses. Moreover, THC and CBD have shown promise in impeding the proliferation and metastasis of cancer cells through multiple mechanisms, including the induction of apoptosis and the inhibition of angiogenesis.

thc or cbd for cancer patients

How do THC and CBD work in cancer treatment?

THC and CBD both interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), along with a range of other receptors and pathways in the body. The ECS is responsible for maintaining balance and homeostasis in the body, essentially regulating various physiological processes such as mood, appetite, pain, and immune function.

The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), our own naturally produced cannabinoids that work as signalling molecules, and enzymes that help break down these cannabinoids. Both THC and CBD can bind to these receptors and mimic the effects of our own cannabinoids.

THC’s mechanism of action

THC’s main mechanism of action in cancer treatment is through its interaction with CB1 receptors, which are abundant in the central nervous system. By binding to these receptors, THC can modulate pain perception, induce relaxation, and mitigate nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatments. 

THC has also been shown to potentially offer anti-tumour properties, including the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation and the promotion of cancer cell death through apoptosis. It can also impede angiogenesis, thus limiting the blood supply to tumours and hindering their growth.

CBD’s mechanism of action

CBD’s anti-tumour mechanisms involve inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, inducing programmed cell death (apoptosis) and suppressing the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) that support tumour growth. CBD also exhibits potent anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate inflammation associated with cancer and its treatments. Its ability to modulate the immune response may also contribute to its anti-tumour effects.

Additionally, CBD has anxiolytic properties, which can help alleviate anxiety and improve the overall well-being of cancer patients. By interacting with serotonin receptors, CBD may regulate mood and reduce anxiety levels. This aspect of CBD’s effects can be particularly beneficial for cancer patients, who often experience emotional distress and anxiety related to their diagnosis and treatment.

With that said, it is important to point out that CBD and THC are not cures for cancer. They may help reduce the symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatments, but they should not be used as a replacement for conventional medical treatment.

thc or cbd for cancer patients

What does the current research say about THC and CBD for cancer treatment?

Preclinical studies have demonstrated that both THC and CBD possess anti-tumour properties and can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells in laboratory settings. These cannabinoids have been investigated in various types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate and pancreatic cancer. 

Findings suggest that THC and CBD can induce apoptosis in cancer cells, inhibit cell proliferation and disrupt the formation of new blood vessels that nourish tumours. These mechanisms offer potential avenues for suppressing tumour growth and metastasis.

Clinical studies on THC and CBD have primarily focused on their role in managing cancer-related symptoms. THC has been extensively studied for its ability to alleviate pain, reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and stimulate appetite in cancer patients. Its efficacy in these areas has been well-documented, leading to the development of THC-based pharmaceuticals for supportive cancer care.

CBD, on the other hand, has shown promise in managing pain, inflammation and anxiety in cancer patients. Clinical trials have investigated its potential as an adjunct therapy to conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. While the results are preliminary, they suggest that CBD may enhance the therapeutic effects of standard treatments and improve overall well-being.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with THC and CBD use in cancer treatment?

While THC offers therapeutic benefits, its psychoactive effects can present risks. The cognitive impairment and altered state of mind caused by THC may be undesirable for certain individuals, particularly those who require mental clarity or are sensitive to its psychoactive properties. On the other hand, CBD does not produce psychoactive effects and is generally well-tolerated by most people. That said, CBD may have mild side effects such as fatigue, dry mouth or changes in appetite. 

Another consideration is the potential for drug interactions. Both THC and CBD can interact with certain medications, including those commonly prescribed in cancer treatment. It is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to ensure that the use of THC or CBD does not interfere with the effectiveness or safety of other medications.

Factors to consider in choosing THC or CBD for cancer treatment

When considering THC or CBD for cancer treatment, several factors need to be taken into account. The type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and medical history, play crucial roles in determining the appropriate cannabinoid therapy. Different cancers may respond differently to THC and CBD, and individual variations in tolerance and sensitivity must be considered.

It’s also crucial to consult with healthcare professionals before using any form of cannabis-based medicine. They can provide guidance based on the latest research and evidence, helping patients make informed decisions about incorporating THC or CBD into their treatment plan. Healthcare professionals can also ensure proper dosing and monitor for potential drug interactions or side effects.

One final point to note is that, for some people at least, ease of accessibility may also be a key factor to consider. CBD products are fully legal for general sale (as long as they contain a maximum of 0.2% THC).

thc or cbd for cancer patients

THC or CBD for cancer in brief

In conclusion, THC and CBD show promise in cancer treatment, but further research is needed to understand their mechanisms of action and therapeutic potential fully. THC can provide symptom relief and has demonstrated possible anti-cancer effects, but its psychoactive effects may limit its use for some individuals. CBD, on the other hand, offers non-psychoactive benefits and is generally well-tolerated. 

It’s crucial that any form of treatment is based on a personalised approach that takes into account the type and stage of cancer, patient’s overall health and medical considerations. It’s also crucial to consult with healthcare professionals and follow evidence-based treatments to optimise patient outcomes. 

It is also crucial to point out once more that medical cannabis is not a cure for cancer. While it may reduce the severity of symptoms and side effects, it should not be used as a replacement for conventional cancer treatment. Patients must continue to work closely with their healthcare team to develop comprehensive treatment plans that are tailored to their individual needs.

Do you have experience with taking medical cannabis products to manage cancer symptoms or as an adjunct therapy? Share your experience in the medical cannabis review section on your clinic page here at CAC, and help others make informed decisions about their treatment options.

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