Can cannabinoids cure cancer? Clinical trials in recurrent malignant brain tumors

The most dismal diagnosis in 21st-century medicine is glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a highly malignant type of intrinsic brain tumor1. According to the charity Brain Tumor Research, intracranial tumors kill more children and adults under 40 than any other type of cancer2. Apart from leukemia, brain tumors are the most common type of cancer in children. Glioblastomas account for more than half of all newly diagnosed brain tumors. In the adult population, they have an incidence of 0.59-3.69 cases per person life-years. These aggressive tumors have an extremely poor prognosis, with only around 5 percent of patients surviving beyond five years after diagnosis.

What are cannabinoids?

The term "cannabinoid"3 collectively refers to the sum of all 86 or more compounds derived from the Cannabis plants, from synthetic cannabinoid compounds and from their endogenous counterparts. These substances react principally with receptors in the human cannabinoid system but may also cross-react with opioid and other receptors. Two cannabinoids have received particular interest in the medical/scientific community. These are THC, which makes you high, and CBD, which does not, but which does have other redeeming effects on human physiology. Results from laboratory studies and clinical trials suggest cannabidiol (CBD) has a part to play in the palliative relief from cancer symptom, from the traumatic side effects of cancer treatment4. Perhaps surprising, there is also evidence that CBD might be effective in inhibiting the growth of the tumor itself.

Clinical trials in humans

In February 2017, Susan Short, et al, at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds UK, reported the results of a placebo-controlled proof-of-concept clinical trial of Sativex, a dose-intensive combination of THC:CBD extracts manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, in 21 patients diagnosed with recurrent GBM. The preparation, together with temozolomide, the current standard treatment for GBM, was administered orally. The results were promising. Table 1: Results of combined THC:CBD + TMZ vs. TMZ only (control) That the effect was synergistic is demonstrated by more recent results published by a group of scientists at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, who used a non-proprietary mixture of 1:1 THC:CBD with and without TMZ in three-dimensional models. They used BCNU, an alkylating agent similar in structure to TMZ. The cannabinoid mixture reduced glioma growth when combined with TMZ but not with BCNU.


We’re a long way from being able to eradicate malignant brain tumors by massaging hemp oil into our scalps. The aim here was to illustrate the healing potential for these exciting plant-based molecules that are taking the world by storm in the 21st century. Just because it comes from weed doesn’t mean the science is tree-hugging hippy stuff. There is peer-reviewed, mainstream research that CBD acts on the natural endocannabinoid system to halt cell growth in glioblastoma multiforme and in other types of cancer. Meanwhile, hemp oil, which contains CBD but not THC, has become popular when used for:
  • Depression
  • Healthier skin, hair, and nails
  • Nourishing the brain
  • Balancing hormones
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Improved cardiac health
  • Mood balance
  • Management of epilepsy