A substance found in cannabis plants may hold the power to boosting treatment for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in the UK and the Curtin University in Australia have discovered that cannabidoil (CBD) can improve the survival rates of patients with pancreatic cancer. The results show that administering CBD oil alongside chemotherapy medication can improve a patient’s prognosis.
Scientists from the QMUL revealed that mice undergoing chemotherapy for the disease survived almost three times longer after receiving CBD.
Pancreatic Cancer Has One of the Lowest Survival Rates
Pancreatic cancer causes malignant cells to form in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreatic gland is a part of the digestive system responsible for secreting digestive juices into the small intestine. It also regulates the body’s sugar levels.
In England, those who live in the most deprived areas are more prone to pancreatic cancer. Every year, more than 9,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK alone. In fact, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network predicts that cases will reach over 12,000 cases by 2030.
The life expectancy for people with pancreatic cancer has barely changed in the last 40 years. Only a few treatments like palliative care are available for patients with the disease. With the poor, five-year survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer, experts are turning to new treatments.
A Mouse Model of Pancreatic Cancer
The new study shows that CBD is effective in improving pancreatic cancer treatment. Unlike the more common tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause psychoactive effects.
The researchers used a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, where they treated the subjects with CBD and a chemotherapy drug called ‘gemcitabine’. Results of the combination treatment show that the rodents that received CBD survived three times as long as mice from a control group that had only received gemcitabine.
The results of the study reveal that the drug combination blocks the GPR55 protein, which slows the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.
CBD Already Approved in Clinics
CBD is legal in the country, and medicinal cannabis is already available on prescription in the UK. Prof. Falasca from QMUL is confident that using CBD in clinical trials can pave the way towards testing the drug on humans. Since CBD products are less regulated than their THC counterparts, it is easier to get them on the market.
More than just improving treatment for pancreatic cancer, the researchers note that CBD can improve the symptoms related to chemotherapy, including pain, nausea and vomiting.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest types of cancers to treat. While the results of the new study look promising, scientists are still uncertain about how CBD could react with other drugs, like chemotherapies, in people. Additionally, the GPR55 protein is only a major driver in about one-third of cancer cases, so not all patients could benefit from the new treatment. Still, it could spell the difference between a life lost to pancreatic cancer and a life saved.
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