As a therapeutic agent, most people are familiar with the palliative effects of the primary psychoactive constituent of Cannabis sativa (CS), Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a molecule active at both the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptor subtypes. Through the activation primarily of CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, THC can reduce nausea, emesis and pain in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. During the last decade, however, several studies have now shown that CB1 and CB2 receptor agonists can act as direct antitumor agents in a variety of aggressive cancers.
Neuroblastoma (nbl) is one of the most common solid cancers in children. Prognosis in advanced nbl is still poor despite aggressive multimodality therapy. Furthermore, survivors experience severe long-term multi-organ sequelae. Hence, the identification of new therapeutic strategies is of utmost importance. Cannabinoids and their derivatives have been used for years in folk medicine and later in the field of palliative care. Recently, they were found to show pharmacologic activity in cancer, including cytostatic, apoptotic, and antiangiogenic effects.
The legalisation of cannabis in a growing number of jurisdictions has led to increasing interest in its potential therapeutic effects in a range of disorders, including cutaneous conditions. Cannabinoids have been used as natural medicines for centuries; however, their biological activity in the skin is a new area of study. Recent data suggest that cannabinoids are involved in neuro-immuno-endocrine modulation of skin functioning, yet their effect on the features of dermatologic conditions is unclear.
The Endogenous Cannabinoid System: A Budding Source of Targets for Treating Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain
The aim of this review was to assess the efficacy of cannabis preparations for relieving pain in patients with malignant diseases, through a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which were predominantly double-blind trials that compared cannabis preparation to a placebo. An electronic search of all literature published until June 2017 was made in MEDLINE/PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and specific web pages devoted to cannabis. Fifteen of the 18 trials demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoids as compared to placebo. The most commonly reported adverse effects were generally well tolerated, mild to moderate.
Insufficient management of cancer-associated chronic and neuropathic pain adversely affects patient quality of life. Patients who do not respond well to opioid analgesics, or have severe side effects from the use of traditional analgesics are in need of alternative therapeutic op-tions. Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical cannabis has potential to effectively manage pain in this patient population. There is evidence suggesting that medical cannabis reduces chronic or neu-ropathic pain in advanced cancer patients.
Nanotechnology has opened up a new, previously unimaginable world in cancer diagnosis and therapy, leading to the emergence of cancer nanomedicine and nanoparticle-aided radiotherapy. Smart nanomaterials (nanoparticle drones) can now be constructed with capability to precisely target cancer cells and be remotely activated with radiation to emit micrometer-range missile-like electrons to destroy the tumor cells. These nanoparticle drones can also be programmed to deliver therapeutic payloads to tumor sites to achieve optimal therapeutic efficacy.
Exosomes and microvesicles (EMV) are lipid bilayer-enclosed structures, released by cells and involved in intercellular communication through transfer of proteins and genetic material. EMV release is also associated with various pathologies, including cancer, where increased EMV release is amongst other associated with chemo-resistance and active transfer of pro-oncogenic factors. Recent studies show that EMV-inhibiting agents can sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agents and reduce cancer growth in vivo. Cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid derived from Cannabis sativa, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and displays anti-proliferative activity.
Cannabis species have been used as medicine for thousands of years; only since the 1940s has the plant not been widely available for medical use. However, an increasing number of jurisdictions are making it possible for patients to obtain the botanical for medicinal use. For the cancer patient, cannabis has a number of potential benefits, especially in the management of symptoms. Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression.
“Cannabinoid” is the collective term for a group of chemical compounds that either are derived from the Cannabis plant, are synthetic analogues, or occur endogenously. Although cannabinoids interact mostly at the level of the currently recognized cannabinoid receptors, they might have cross reactivity, such as at opioid receptors. Patients with malignant disease represent a cohort within health care that have some of the greatest unmet needs despite the availability of a plethora of guideline-driven disease-modulating treatments and pain and symptom management options.
The aim of this review is to discuss cannabinoids from a preclinical and clinical oncological perspective and provide the audience with a concise, retrospective overview of the most significant findings concerning the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer treatment. A large number of cannabinoid compounds have been discovered, developed, and used to study the effects of cannabinoids on cancers in model systems. However, few clinical trials have been conducted on the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancers in humans. Further studies require extensive monitoring of the effects of cannabinoids alone or in combination with standard anticancer strategies. With such knowledge, cannabinoids could become a therapy of choice in contemporary oncology.