A new study has suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) might boost pancreatic cancer treatments. The study, published in the journal “Oncogene” on July 30, 2018, found that using CBD reduces the growth of pancreatic cancer cells and inhibits the progression of the disease.
According to scientists who conducted the research in mice, CBD can enhance the effect of conventional medications used to treat pancreatic cancer. CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical component found in cannabis and it is known to be effective in the treatment of a number of medical conditions and symptoms.
The latest study may have been conducted in mice, but the researchers pointed out that if the results are replicated in humans, cannabis-based treatment could lead to many pancreatic cancer patients living longer lives.
Pancreatic cancer is a disease that is caused by the abnormal and uncontrollable division of cells in the pancreas, possibly forming a tumor. However, symptoms of this type of cancer may not manifest immediately.
These symptoms include back pain, unexpected weight loss, and yellowing of the skin.
The cause of pancreatic cancer has not yet been determined, but being of older age (50 to 60 years old), being overweight, having diabetes, and smoking could increase one’s risk of developing the disease.
It is said that in the UK, an average of 27 new cases of pancreatic cancer are diagnosed every day. This makes it the 11th most common type of cancer in the country.
Life expectancy and few available treatments
The researchers noted that the life expectancy of patients with pancreatic cancer has not seen any substantial changes in the last four decades. This is because very few treatments are available, and most of these are only palliative treatments.
The disease is known to have a bleak prognosis, with only around 5 percent of patients surviving for five years. It is also estimated that around 80 percent of people with pancreatic cancer die within one year of diagnosis.
Dr. Riccardo Ferro, one of the researchers from Queen Mary University of London, explained that pancreatic cancer is very aggressive and this is why it is very important that new therapies be discovered.
How the study was conducted
Ferro and his colleagues from the U.K., Australia, and Italy described that they carried out their experiments on mice, which had been genetically modified to develop pancreatic cancer, as well as on cells in petri dishes.
The researchers showed that a gene receptor — called GPR55 — has something to do with the growth and spread of pancreatic cells. GPR55 also gives rise to receptors or proteins present in cell membranes that detect various substances like certain cannabis-derived chemicals.
Ferro and his team found that about 26 percent of human pancreatic cancer samples demonstrated raised levels of the receptors, which suggests an accumulation in cancer tissues. For some patients, at least.
In their subsequent experiments, the researchers took the mice with cancer and divided them into four groups. Ten mice were given CBD, eight mice were given the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, seven mice were given both CBD and gemcitabine, and nine were given placebo.
Results of the experiments
After starting treatment, the mice in the placebo group lived only an average of 19 days, those in the CBD group lived only for over 25 days, while those in the gemcitabine group lasted 28 days.
However, the mice who were given a combination of both drugs experienced a more dramatic effect. They lived an extended period of up to 53 days.
The researchers explained that the CBD blocks the receptors produced by GPR55. As a result, the receptors are prevented from interacting with other substances promoting the growth of spread of cancer cells.
Moreover, the researchers found that CBD prevents the development of gemcitabine resistance.
The researchers concluded that mice with pancreatic cancer are most likely to live nearly three times longer if CBD is added to their chemotherapy treatment.