- Past research looking at the health effects of cannabinoids on cancer patients has been mixed.
- A new study documents the case of a woman whose tumor shrank after she used CBD oil.
- Experts say this one case does not show that CBD can treat lung cancer, but that more research is needed.
A case study recently published in BMJ Case Reportsdocumented the experience of a woman whose lung tumor shrank without conventional cancer treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
For two and a half years, the woman, who was in her 80s and diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, ingested CBD oil two to three times a day as an alternative self-treatment.
The authors of the report suspect there may be a beneficial link between the consumption of CBD oil and tumor regression. Still, they agree that much more research is needed to understand the relationship.
But past research looking at the health effects of cannabinoids on cancer patients has been mixed.
According to cancer doctors, certain cancers are known to spontaneously regress, usually due to the immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells.
There is currently no evidence that CBD oil contributed to the tumor regression.
Many cancer patients use cannabis to relieve cancer-related pain and stimulate their appetite, and many doctors recommend using cannabinoids but only as a complement to conventional treatment methods.
“The main takeaway is that you cannot base cancer therapy on a single report of a single patient. There are case reports of spontaneous regression of lung cancer without therapy, as well as misdiagnoses of lung cancer that turned out to be non-malignant,” Dr. James B. Yu, a Yale Medicine radiation oncologist and professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine, told Healthline.
According to Dr. Skyler Johnson, an assistant professor with the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah School of Medicine, there are reasons as to why cancer may experience a spontaneous regression.
Several case reports of spontaneous regression linked to both traditional and alternative cancer treatments have been documented.
“There are intrinsic reasons, for example, a tumor that loses or outgrows blood, and therefore nutrient supply, and even extrinsic reasons, for example, an immune system that begins to better recognize and respond to cancer cells,” Johnson said.
According to Dr. Osita Onugha, a thoracic surgeon and assistant professor of thoracic surgery at Saint John’s Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, the body has the ability to kill some cancers.
This is the whole premise of immunotherapy, Onugha says.
“That patient needs to be studied in general because there’s probably something about her immune system that allowed her to effectively decrease and potentially eradicate the cancer,” Onugha said.
Understanding that allows scientists to unlock the immune system and learn how to fight cancer overall, Onugha added.
At this point, CBD has not been shown to have a beneficial anti-cancer effect.
Cannabis is routinely recommended to cancer patients for pain management and appetite stimulation.
Cannabis is not a new treatment in cancer patients, and Onugha suspects if there were a strong anti-cancer benefit to CBD, there would be more case studies similar to the one discussed here.
“I advise caution to patients wanting to try any of these until they can be thoroughly tested in trials,” Johnson said.
Research has previously found that patients who refuse recommended medical treatment in favor of alternative therapies are more likely to die.
Though this patient’s condition improved, many others in a similar situation may have ultimately needed more intense treatment and faced a greater likelihood of morbidity and death, says Yu.
Onugha says cancer is difficult to diagnose and treat, so if a patient wants to try CBD oil, they should go ahead — but they should work with their medical team and try the CBD oil in conjunction with conventional treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
“If you want to treat something that is very difficult to treat in some cases, do everything possible — don’t just choose one,” Onugha said.
A new case study documented the experience of a woman whose lung tumor shrank without conventional cancer treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. The patient took CBD oil daily, which the authors suspect may have had a beneficial impact on the cancer. But other cancer doctors say research on cannabinoids and cancer has been mixed, and there is no evidence to suggest the CBD oil had a beneficial impact. Some cancers are known to regress spontaneously, and some people’s immune systems have what it takes to kill off the cancer.