Marijuana And Chemotherapy


Linda Parker, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience at Wilfrid Laurier University, told The Windsor Star (Canada) in an Aug. 24, 2006 article titled “Marijuana May Relieve Chemo Patients’ Nausea”:

“Many chemotherapy patients vomit walking into clinics in anticipation of treatment. The symptoms can deter some patients from continuing with recommended treatment.

Known anti-emetic drugs aren’t effective in treating learned nausea.

People report that if they smoke marijuana before they go for chemotherapy treatment, they don’t experience the anticipatory nausea or vomiting.”
(October 2003) Linda Parker

Nature Reviews – Cancer stated in an October 2003 article titled “Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents,” by Manuel Guzman, Ph.D., (Vol. 3 Oct. 2003 pp. 745-755) reported:

“Cannabinoids — the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives — exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite. In addition, these compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumour cells in culture and animal models by modulating key cell-signalling pathways. Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies.”
Oct. 2003 Nature Reviews – Cancer

The March 1999 U.S. Institute of Medicine report “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base” concluded on page 152:

“Most chemotherapy patients are unlikely to want to use marijuana or THC as an antiemetic. In 1999, there are more effective antiemetic agents available than were available earlier. By comparison, cannabinoids are only modest antiemetics.

However, because modern antiemetics probably act through different mechanisms, cannabinoids might be effective in people who respond poorly to currently used antiemetic drugs, or cannabinoids might be more effective in combination with a new drug than is either alone….

The goal of antiemetic medications is to prevent nausea and vomiting. Hence, antiemetics are typically given before chemotherapy, in which case a pill is an effective form or drug delivery. However, in patients already experiencing severe nausea or vomiting, pills are generally ineffective because of the difficulty in swallowing or keeping a pill down and slow onset of the drug effect. Thus, an inhalation (but preferably not smoking) cannabinoid drug delivery system would be advantageous for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea….

It is possible that the harmful effects of smoking marijuana for a limited period of time might be outweighed by the antiemetic benefits of marijuana, at least for patients for whom standard antiemetic therapy is ineffective and who suffer from debilitating emesis.”
March 1999 Institute of Medicine

The U.S. National Cancer Institute states in its Dec. 12, 2000 website article “Marijuana Use in Supportive Care for Cancer Patients”:

“There has been much interest in the use of marijuana to treat a number of medical problems, including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients.

Two forms of marijuana have been used: compounds related to the active chemical constituent of marijuana taken by mouth and marijuana cigarettes. Dronabinol (Marinol®), a synthetic form of the active marijuana constituent delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC), is available by prescription for use as an antiemetic. In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who had not responded to the standard antiemetic drugs….

Marijuana cigarettes have been used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and research has shown that THC is more quickly absorbed from marijuana smoke than from an oral preparation. However, any antiemetic effects of smoking marijuana may not be consistent because of varying potency, depending on the source of the marijuana contained in the cigarette.”
Dec. 12, 2000 National Cancer Institute


Is marijuana an effective treatment for reducing nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy?

Copyright: 2010

Cancer Monthly states in their May 2006 free e-newsletter article “Medical Marijuana – The FDA Loses More Credibility”:

“[T]here are literally hundreds of articles that appear in the peer reviewed medical and scientific literature that discuss marijuana’s effects in pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation….

Obviously smoking marijuana is not risk-free especially to respiratory organs and tissue.

However, compared to the risks of a typical chemotherapy agent such as cytoxan which includes: urinary bladder, myeloproliferative, or lymphoproliferative malignancies, potential sterility, urinary system hemorrhagic cystitis, hematuria, cardiac toxicity, anaphylactic reactions, significant suppression of immune responses, and sometimes fatal, infections; the risks of marijuana pale in comparison.

And for cancer patients with advanced cancers who want to improve the quality of their life, a risk versus benefit analysis weighs heavily on the benefit side.”
May 2006 Cancer Monthly

Kate Scannell, M.D., wrote in an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 16, 2003:

“From working with AIDS and cancer patients, I repeatedly saw how marijuana could ameliorate a patient’s debilitating fatigue, restore appetite, diminish pain, remedy nausea, cure vomiting and curtail down-to-the-bone weight loss…

…almost every sick and dying patient I’ve ever known who’s tried medical marijuana experienced a kinder death.”
Feb. 16, 2003 Kate Scannell

GW Pharmaceuticals states on its website in January 2004:

“The anti-emetic properties of cannabis have been studied in humans more widely than any other indication. Nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy was felt to be one of the best supported therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids by the British Medical Association in their review of 23 studies, and was also supported by the American Institute of Medicine. This indication for cannabis has become common knowledge among patients, was the subject of a popular book, and has received some endorsement amongst American oncologists in a survey study.

A large body of knowledge has now been amassed in this context as a result of state-sponsored studies in the USA in cancer chemotherapy. Pooling available data in some 768 patients, oral THC provided 76-88% relief of nausea and vomiting, while smoked cannabis figures supported 70-100% relief in the various surveys.”
January 2004 GW Pharmaceuticals

Francis L. Young, former DEA Administrative Law Judge, made the following statement in his Sept. 6, 1988 ruling:

“The overwhelming preponderance of the evidence in this record establishes that marijuana has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States for nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy treatments in some cancer patients. To conclude otherwise, on this record, would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”
Sept. 6, 1988 Francis Young

Continuing Medical Education, Inc., an organization providing continuing medical education to health care professionals, when asked (on their website) if treating cancer chemotherapy with medical marijuana was sound treatment, replied in a Jan. 2000 website post;

“It is established that marijuana does ease the pain of cancer and the nausea of cancer chemotherapy. So, to directly address your question: It is a medically sound treatment.”
Jan. 2000 Continuing Medical Education