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Cannabis and antitumor Therapies: the effects of Cannabinoids

Geschrieben von Enecta Editorial Staff am 17.09.2018

Cannabis and antitumor Therapies: the effects of Cannabinoids


Science, for several years now, has been investigating on the role of Cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer. We are talking about different types of diseases, often with distinct causes, which affect different organs and tissues, each of which requires disparate and specific treatments. 

In this article we will talk about the relationship between Cancer and Cannabis, about what has been discovered up to now on tumour treatments, and about how CBD and THC could possibly act in such a context.

Before entering into the specifics of the Studies, it is necessary to clarify that “antitumor research”, which has demonstrated the antitumor effects of Cannabinoids, are preclinical Studies and that we are not yet in the possession of scientific documents on humans with precise information on the role the endocannabinoid system plays.

The role of Cannabinoids, what does Science say?

A Research Study published in 2016, with the title “The use of Cannabinoids as antitumor agents”, has demonstrated how cannabinoids activate a process which stimulates the death of tumour cells through autophagy. 
Autophagy is a biological process which is at the basis of autoimmune and degenerative diseases and which allows our cells to be renewed, while those having become useless are destructed.

The research team has explored the mechanisms of resistance to cannabinoid antitumoral action as well as the possible strategies to develop cannabinoid-based combinational therapies to fight cancer.

A Research conducted by the Queen Mary University of London, where the effects of CBD, in association with traditional medical drugs have been analysed, in mice affected by Pancreas tumours.

The mice receiving this type of therapy, a combination of CBD and medication, had an average survival of 56 days, while the animals receiving only chemotherapy, lived an average of 23,6 days. 

In the past 15 years, cases of pancreatic cancer have increased by 59% in Italy: “It is fundamental to improve the level of awareness of citizens and Institutions on this neoplasm and on the importance of healthy lifestyles – explains Fabrizio Nicolis, President of the AIOM Foundations (Italian Association of Medical Oncology) in an interview – worldwide, the new cases have more than doubled in one decade. 

Smoking, obesity and sedentariness represent the main risk factors. In particular about 3 cases out of 10 of pancreatic cancer are caused by tobacco. This data pushes us to engage even more in both prevention and research”.

The Situation in Italy

In Italy the trend of incidence of oncological diseases seems to be in decrease in men and stabile in women;  according to the latest data of the number of pathologies associated with the stomach and the colon-rectum is decreasing.

At geographic level, a major uniformity can be observed between the incidence registered in the regions of Northern and Central Italy in both sexes, with respect to the Southern regions, where the protective effects, related to lifestyles and attitudes, would still be more present.  

Mortality continues to diminish in a significant way in both sexes, as more factors are dealt with, like primary prevention, tobacco control, screening at national level and improvement of treatments.  

Individuals contracting the disease in the period of 2005 - 2009 had a better survival rate with respect to those falling ill during the five previous years, both men and women. We are talking about small percentages, which translated into figures mean thousands of people surviving. 

Interview with Doctor Massimo Nabissi

“I don’t think it’s possible to find one single treatment to defeat cancer, also because tumoral pathologies are very different from one another and every type of tumour would require a targeted therapy”, Massimo Nabissi, researcher and professor at the University of Camerino, states.

Doctor Massimo Nabissi explains the effects of cannabinoids in cancer therapy

“Cannabinoids – Nabissi tells us during our interview – have shown (in preclinical studies) that they work in different forms of cancer (lung, breast, glioblastoma, pancreas, prostate, multiple myeloma, melanoma), acting as an anti-tumoral and improving the biological response of chemotherapeutics, when used in combinations with cannabinoids".


"Therefore, when there is spoken or published about “‘the molecule curing cancer’, whichever this may be, it is a scientifically poorly correct manner of explaining a scientific result and the risks exists to delude patients affected by tumours. With regards to cannabinoids, it is possible to talk about biological effectiveness (intended as antitumoral activity), in the models of tumours which have been studies; regarding other types of tumours no scientific data is available yet”.