Could daily use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil be linked to lung cancer regression?
The Daily Mail headline read “Could CBD help fight cancer? Smoker in her 80s who shunned NHS surgery and chemotherapy sees lung tumour shrink to a QUARTER of original size after taking medical cannabis oil.” Like many, we read the headline with a healthy dose of scepticism. Tabloid sensationalism or a medical breakthrough?
The report they were referring to was published in BMJ Case Reports in October and describes how a woman in her 80s, having refused all conventional treatments, was placed on ‘watch and wait’ monitoring, including regular CT scans.
These scans showed the tumour progressively shrinking, from 41mm in June 2018 to just 10mm by February 2021 without any medical intervention.
High levels of THC
The woman had been taking ‘cannabidiol (CBD) oil’ purchased from abroad as an alternative treatment pathway since August 2018, shortly after her lung cancer diagnosis. According to the supplier, the main active ingredients were Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at 19.5%, cannabidiol at around 20% and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) at around 24%.
She maintains there were no other changes to her prescribed medication (for mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and high blood pressure), diet or lifestyle, and she continued to smoke throughout.
More research needed
Commenting on the case, the BMJ Case Reports authors said, “We are unable to confirm the full ingredients of the CBD oil that the patient was taking or to provide information on which of the ingredient(s) may be contributing to the observed tumour regression.”
Continuing, “Although there appears to be a relationship between the intake of CBD oil and the observed tumour regression, we are unable to conclusively confirm that the tumour regression is due to the patient taking CBD oil.”
While the BMJ report refers to ‘CBD oil’, the high THC levels present make this THC oil or medical cannabis, which remains illegal in the UK unless prescribed by a GP, rather than over-the-counter CBD oil which contains only trace amounts of THC, if any.
Previous research into CBD and THC as treatments for cancer have had contradictory results although there is anecdotal evidence that CBD and medical cannabis can relieve symptoms experienced following chemotherapy and treat certain types of cancer. What is clear, is that much more research is needed before we can herald any cannabis-derived oils as a miracle cancer cure.