The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a notice of special interest offering funding for researchers to study the risk of cannabis treatments for cancer patients, Marijuana Moment reports. In the notice, NIH highlights that one in four cancer patients report using cannabis to manage symptoms like anorexia, nausea, and pain, but that “research about their (cannabis treatments) health effects, including potential harms and benefits, remain limited.”
The notice also includes an overview of current cannabis and cancer research along with eight areas of interest NIH would like researchers to focus on. The agency says current studies have “yielded limited and inconsistent results.” One such discussion point is the finding that smoking cannabis is not related to lung cancer, despite cannabis smoke containing harmful compounds. The notice says that “studies of other cancer types have shown no or inconsistent association with cannabis use, but these data are limited.”
NIH notes that cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates “many cancer-relevant processes, such as cell proliferation, motility and survival” and that “cancer cell line experiments show that THC and CBD can mediate many anti-tumor effects, including inducing apoptosis and inhibiting cell proliferation, invasion, and angiogenesis.”
“These anti-tumor activities have led to early clinical testing of THC and CBD for glioblastoma and prostate cancers,” the NIH said.
According to the NIH notice, the eight suggested areas for additional research include:
- Understanding how exogenous cannabis and cannabinoids affect cancer development (preneoplasia through malignancy) and biology, including the tumor microenvironment;
- Understanding how endogenous cannabinoid pathways influence cancer development and biology;
- Defining the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on cancer treatment (particularly targeted treatments and immunotherapy) and the development of treatment resistance;
- Understanding the use of cannabis and cannabinoids in cancer interception and delineating how endocannabinoid signaling pathways may inhibit early cancers;
- Defining the mechanisms of cannabis and cannabinoid action in alleviating symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment (such as pain, nausea, and neuropathy);
- Understanding the combinatorial effects of cannabis and cannabinoids in conjunction with other factors (such as tobacco constituents, alcohol, microbiome, or diet) on cancer biology, treatment, and symptom management;
- Identifying biological mechanisms underlying disparities in sex or ethnicity in cannabis and cannabinoid action in cancer biology, treatment, or symptom management; and;
- Developing or validating new and human-relevant model systems to understand cannabis and cannabinoid action in cancer biology, treatment, or symptom management.
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