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cbd oil and immunotherapy

The reason patients with autoimmune conditions receive such a benefit from cannabis has to do with its ability to “down-regulate” or suppress the immune system. This suppression of the immune system is a contradictory goal to immunotherapy. Although cannabis may continue to offer benefits during cancer treatment, studies show it can significantly decrease overall survival and time to tumor progression when combined with immunotherapy. Side effects of immunotherapy stem from overstimulation or misdirection of the system. Although they can be severe, they are usually mild to moderate and include rash, itching, nausea, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. The side effects of immunotherapy were reduced by the use of cannabis, not surprisingly, resulting from marijuana’s immunomodulatory effects.

Besides surgery, when one thinks of cancer treatment options, usually chemotherapy or radiation, come to mind. A patient and their doctor’s options have expanded over time, and newer approaches may now include a combination of targeted therapy, hormone therapy, stem cell therapy, and immunotherapy. In simple terms, cancer immunotherapy or biological therapy is designed to stimulate a patient’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes referred to as immuno-oncology, and its popularity has dramatically increased over the past years. Many biotechnology companies are looking into cancer vaccines that actively target cancer cells with the immune system. One such cell-based immunotherapy that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of prostate cancer is Provenge. Therapy entails removing specific white blood cells from the patient through leukapheresis, which is then sent to a particular production lab where it is incubated with a fusion protein. Afterward, it is shipped back to an infusion center and administered to the patient. For patients with hormone-refractory prostate cancer or HRPC, the median survival rate with the immunotherapy added 4.1 months compared to placebo.

Medical Marijuana is extremely beneficial for treating so many symptoms and conditions. It works particularly well for Seizures, Spasticity, Pain, PTSD, Nausea, and many other disorders. Autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, IBS, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and more than 100 different diseases are well suited to medical cannabis as cannabinoids found in it such as THC and CBD have immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties.

What Can Immunotherapy Treat?

Immunotherapy can include Immune checkpoint inhibitors, T-cell adoptive transfer, Cytokines, cancer vaccines, Monoclonal antibodies, and others. It is used to treat several different cancers, some of which include:

Because cannabis consumption during immunotherapy treatment may be associated with worsening clinical outcomes, we recommend patients try their best to refrain from medical marijuana during the treatment period with active immunotherapies.

While research into the topic is still scant, studies such as the retrospective paper mentioned above have turned up concerning findings: Patients who did not receive cannabis were 3.17 times more likely to respond to immunotherapy.

However, the study also unveiled some fascinating quirks. While the response rate to immunotherapy was affected by cannabis use, other measures such as progression-free survival and overall survival were not—progression-free survival refers to the length of time during and after treatment that a patient lives with the disease without it worsening; overall survival is the length of time a patient stays alive from the date of diagnosis or commencement of treatment.

While the addition of cannabis to the cancer-fighting arsenal is a cause to celebrate, the complexities of cannabis and cancer interactions are still not fully understood. Scientists are still making sense of the role the endocannabinoid system plays in the development of cancer and whether certain cannabinoids may stimulate cancer cell proliferation.

Cannabinoids May Suppress the Immune System

Most critically, today, little is known about the connections between cancer, the immune system, and cannabis. A 2019 retrospective observational paper suggests that cannabis may be detrimental to cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy; nowadays, immunotherapy is a standard of care for many solid tumors.

These days, you’re more likely than ever to hear cannabis and cancer mentioned in the same breath. Cannabis is already recognized as a valuable palliative treatment for cancer due to its antiemetic and analgesic effects. Emerging research suggests that cannabis may offer curative benefits for cancer, too—cannabinoids present in the plant can prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, slow tumor growth, or even stimulate the death of cancer cells.

Patients with renal cell carcinoma and melanoma showed a particularly pronounced disparity: 40.6% of patients who received Nivolumab alone responded to the treatment, in contrast to 10% of patients who received cannabis and Nivolumab. The route, dose, and formula of cannabis did not appear to impact the response rate. Statistical analysis reveals that cannabis was the only significant factor which could have reduced the response rate to immunotherapy.

Macias has a research background in molecular and cellular biology and has spent more than 15 years working with medicinal marijuana. While she recognizes the potential of cannabis as a cancer treatment, she cautions that combining immunotherapy and cannabis may be problematic.