Substance in cannabis could lengthen cancer patients' lives

Studies in mice suggest that cannabidiol, a substance in cannabis, could boost the effectiveness of drugs for pancreatic cancer.
By Rick Docksai | Jul 31, 2018
Sufferers of pancreatic cancer might lengthen their life expectancies by years with cannabidiol, a substance found in cannabis plants, according to European and Australian researchers. The researchers, writing in the journal Oncogene, reported that cannabidiol appears to boost the therapeutic power of pancreatic-cancer-treating drugs.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, according to scientists, who say that around 80% of sufferers survive more than a year after their diagnosis and that only 5% make it to five. Scientists report that pancreatic cancer is the fifth most-common cause of cancer-related death in the United Kingdom and the fourth most-common in the United States.

"It is very aggressive, so it is very important to find new therapies for this cancer," said Ricardo Ferro, Queen Mary University of London researcher and co-author of the cannabidiol study.

Ferro and colleagues from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy collaborated on the study, in which they applied cannabidiol to pancreatic cancerous growths in mice.

One group of mice received cannabidiol, another group received the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, and a third group received a placebo. The mice in the placebo lived only 19 days, while those in the cannabidiol group lived for 25 and those in the gemcitabine group lived 28 days. The most dramatic results were in a fourth group that got a combination of cannabidiol and gemcitabine: This group survived an average of 53 days.

The researchers hope to conduct follow-up tests in humans and determine if cannabidiol can boost their cancer drugs' effectiveness in a similar fashion. This study alone cannot determine if cannabidiol will act on human tissues and human cancer drugs in exactly the same way, they explained.

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