Study confirms CBD’s promise in treating rare type of brain cancer

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Brain cancer cells in humans and canines were recently investigated by a team of scientists at Colorado State University. According to the researchers, cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant – could prove effective as a therapy for treating stubborn brain cancers.

In particular, this study on CBD for brain cancer focused on patients who suffer from glioblastoma — a deadly and fast-spreading disease that is usually tricky to treat. Despite recent innovations in technology, research and science, survival rates for glioblastoma have remained poor. Fortunately, a pure CBD extract or isolate could hold the key to treating this debilitating disease.

“Further research and treatment options are urgently needed for patients afflicted by brain cancer,” said Chase Gross, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Master of Science student at CSU. “Our work shows that CBD has the potential to provide an effective, synergistic glioblastoma therapy option and that it should continue to be vigorously studied.”

COVID-19 delayed unveiling of study findings on CBD for brain cancer 

The latest research on the therapeutic potential for CBD for glioblastoma were expected to be unveiled by Mr. Gross to an audience at the American Society for Pharmacology (ASPET) and Experimental Therapeutics meeting, which takes place in San Diego on an annual basis. This year’s event was scheduled for April 4-7, but has since been cancelled due to coronavirus. 

Initially expected to be held in a joint collaboration alongside the 2020 Experimental Biology conference, the event will now be postponed until further notice. Nonetheless, Mr. Gross was able to get his point across when the research team’s abstract was featured in The FASEB Journal’s April issue. 

“Our experiments showed that CBD slows cancer cell growth and is toxic to both canine and human glioblastoma cell lines. Importantly, the differences in anti-cancer effects between CBD isolate and extract appear to be negligible,” said Mr. Gross, whose team focused on treating glioblastoma cells in both human and canines. Why? Because cancer in both species of mammal demonstrate remarkable similarities.

Apoptosis – a type of programmed cell death – occured when CBD was used in this study; the effects of a pure CBD isolate and a THC-containing CBD extract each produced impressive results. Each and every cell line study carried out by the university researchers demonstrated efficacy in CBD-induced cell death for glioblastoma; distinguished by oversized and inflated intracellular vesicles. As the vesicles swelled, the membrane started to expand, before breaking down.

Study on CBD for brain cancer reveals that cannabinoid targets mitochondria

As a cannabinoid that is renowned for its anticancer properties, CBD is the perfect natural chemical for targeting the glioblastoma mitochondria — the membrane-bound cell organelles that churn out a significant amount of chemical energy required to trigger a cell’s biochemical reaction. 

What the researchers discovered was that CBD is capable of dismantling the functioning of glioblastoma mitochondria; a major reduction in mitochondrial activity was observed. Consequently, the cannabinoid successfully prevented cells from dispersing damaging oxygen species into the brain.  

“CBD has been zealously studied in cells for its anticancer properties over the last decade,” explained Mr. Gross. “Our study helps complete the in vitro puzzle, allowing us to move forward in studying CBD’s effects on glioblastoma in a clinical setting using live animal models. This could lead to new treatments that would help both people and dogs that have this very serious cancer.”

For the next stage of their research, the scientists will swap investigations into cell cultures for tests on more animal models. This transition, they say, will enable them to gain a more comprehensive overview of CBD’s effects on glioblastoma.

Should all go as planned, tests into the benefits of CBD for brain tumors will proceed at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital housed inside CSU. Here, the researchers hope to successfully treeat dogs who are undergoing treatment for naturally-occurring glioblastoma.