Pancreatic cancer may be the second leading cause of cancer by 2030 following lung cancer. And, based on data from the American Cancer Society, survival rates are much lower for pancreatic cancer compared to other types. Therefore, new effective treatments are greatly needed.

Studies have indicated that concomitant use of cannabinoids with other types of standard cancer therapies like radiation or chemotherapy boosted the effects of these treatments.

Last year, researchers from the University of Melbourne published a literature review of evidence to date from studies published on cannabinoids and pancreatic cancer. The study concluded that both CBD and THC, “appear to have antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects.”

Cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) are expressed in pancreatic cancer cells but not in healthy cells, indicating that they play a role in pancreatic cancer. In vitro evidence indicates that activation of CB2 specifically may induce cell death in pancreatic cancer cells. However, there is also evidence that inverse agonists of CB1 may induce apoptosis of MiaPaCa2 pancreatic cancer cells through the JAK/STAT and MAPK pathways, independent of CB1.

Pre-clinical, or in vivo studies, have shown that different types of cannabinoids, both exogenous and endogenous, can decrease angiogenesis and cancer cell growth and migration. The mechanism of these effects pointed to activation of TRB3 in one study, which is a pro-apoptotic protein.

Whether cannabinoids may one day serve as pancreatic cancer treatments alone or in conjunction with other therapies remains to be seen. Future studies must continue to evaluate the effectiveness of specific cannabinoids, as well as better understand dosing, which should optimally be tested in the context of a clinical trial.

Reference

Sharafi, G., et al., “Potential Use of Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer.” Journal of Pancreatic Cancer, vol.5, no.1, 2019, pp. 1-7.