Medical Marijuana: Role in Oncology?

Photo Credit: Nick Youngson (http://nyphotographic.com/)

Photo Credit: Nick Youngson (http://nyphotographic.com/)

According to a new review of medical marijuana in oncology published in JAMA Oncology, medical marijuana could potentially treat anticipatory and refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, refractory cancer pain, and act as an antitumor agent. That being said, the authors are hesitant to recommend smoked marijuana as a first-line antiemetic, analgesic, or antitumor agent due to the fact most evidence comes from small clinical trials and animal studies. They call for more research surrounding medical marijuana's potential role in oncology for humans. 

The authors do recognize that cannabis has powerful antiemetic properties, and one previous review found cannabinoid derivatives could be more effective than certain antiemetic drugs in patients receiving medium emetogenic regimens, but not highly emetogenic regimens. Some studies also found THC could work well with other antiemetics to combat nausea. Clinical trials have also found THC and other cannabinoids act as analgesics, even in opioid-refractory pain, and its safety profile is favorable to other analgesics. There is little data regarding cannabis' antitumor effects in humans, but some data suggests THC may have antitumor properties and prevent metastasis. The low risk of overdose and dependence also makes marijuana preferable to other treatment methods. 

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