Can Cannabinoids in Marijuana Cure Brain Cancer?

    Posted by Diane Campbell on Oct 19, 2015 10:58:37 AM

    Promising new research suggests that active compounds in marijuana can dramatically slow the growth of and even shrink gliomas, a common type of cancerous brain tumor. This could be an important step in reducing or eliminating many fatal brain cancers.


    Anatomy of a Brain Tumor

    “Glioma” is a general term used to describe any tumor that arises from the supportive tissue of the brain, which is called “glia.” The glia helps to keep the neurons of the brain in place and functioning normally.[1] Primary brain tumors are those that develop from the glia itself, as opposed to migrating (metastasizing) from another part of the body. Slow-growing gliomas are referred to as “low grade” and assigned grades of 1 or 2; rapidly-growing gliomas are called “high grade” and assigned grades of 3 or 4.[2]

    Brain tumors, like other tumors, form because of the abnormal, unregulated growth of cells. Normally, cells in an adult human brain remain in a “resting” state and do not divide. Sometimes, however, brain cells re-embark on the division and replication cycle, resulting in tumor growth. This unusual regeneration is caused by genetic alterations, although at this time, scientists don’t know why these alterations occur.[3]  

    Doctors usually remove gliomas surgically and then begin a course of radiation therapy.[4] The most common gliomas have a very high recurrence rate, which can usually be slowed with radiation and/or chemotherapy; however, the mortality rate remains high.[5]

    New Research: Cannabinoids Help to Shrink Tumors

    In a study of mice published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics in late 2014, scientists from St. George’s, University of London determined that when combined with radiation treatment, cannabis extracts helped dramatically shrink one of the most aggressive types of high-grade brain tumors.[6] Although research had been done previously on the effects of cannabinoids, this study is the first of its kind to test the effects of combining them with traditional radiation therapy.

    The researchers examined mice that had been infected with high-grade gliomas and subsequently treated with radiation alone and radiation in combination with varying levels of two cannabis compounds: THC, the psychoactive compound associated with the "high" sensation, and CBD, which doesn't produce psychoactive effects.[7] They found that low doses of both compounds together helped enhance the cancer-shrinking and growth-inhibiting effects of radiation on the tumors.[8]

    Human Studies Still Needed

    The success of animal studies is encouraging, but testing must be done in humans before definite conclusions can be drawn. Encouragingly, the National Institute for Health has officially recognized this new study on the efficacy of cannabinoids combined with radiation for the treatment of brain tumors and the potential for sanctioned medical applications of marijuana derivatives.[9] Unfortunately, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug according to the DEA, restricting research by private scientists and labs. The government does sanction a very limited amount of research using marijuana, some of which is beginning to reveal its potential benefits, but legal private production of marijuana for research purposes remains impossible in the U.S.

    However, scientists in Madrid, Spain – where medical research using cannabis is legal – are currently trying to crowdfund a human trial to test the effects of cannabinoids on gliomas.  The proposed clinical studies would give 30-40 newly diagnosed glioma patients in 4-6 Spanish hospitals either cannabinoids (THC and CBD) or a placebo, in combination with other anti-cancer agents, after an operation removing the tumor.[10] Their hope is to prevent or slow the recurrence of tumors following surgical removal of existing cancerous tissue.

    If studies like this one proceed and show promising outcomes, it is one more point in favor of federal marijuana legalization, at least for research purposes. Hopefully, as more states and countries legalize marijuana for medical purposes, this research will become more common and yield many potentially life-saving discoveries.


    Nature’s Gift Shop in Pueblo West carries a wide variety of lab-tested cannabis products for both medicinal and recreational use, including those high in CBD. Our friendly, knowledgeable budtenders can help you find a product to fit your personal needs and preferences. Come in and find out for yourself why we’re the best retail dispensary in Pueblo!

    Would you like to learn more about cannabis medicines and how cannabis acts on the body? Do you want to know how the endocannabinoid system is vital to your body's health? Download our FREE eBook, “Cannabis and Your Endocannabinoid System,” by clicking the link below!

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    The Nature’s Gift Shop blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice a qualified health care provider if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of anything you read on this website.




    [3] Ibid.








    Topics: medical marijuana, cannabinoids