Home » CBD for Cancer: Reality or Marketing Hype?


Let me tell you about some of the ways cancer is treated.

To kill cancer cells, strong drugs are needed. Not only can these drugs kill cancer cells, but they can also prevent them from coming back, growing, spreading, and invading healthy tissues.

But there is a price to pay for using these strong medications.

The side effects can be terrible, and the treatments themselves can be pretty expensive.

There is also the risk of the cancer returning.

Addressing Three Crucial Issues of Cancer

What makes cancer a very aggressive disease?

It grows; it has its own blood supply; and it metastasizes.

Like I said, to control all these issues, the patient will need different medications. Most of them are strong ones that also kill the healthy, normal cells.

Yes, they can help cancer patients, but the side effects are scary since they damage the liver and the kidneys. And because some of the cancer drugs suppress the immune system, the patient is always at risk for infection.

What if I were to tell you that CBD can address all the critical factors that make cancer an aggressive disease?

CBD can inhibit cancer growth.

There are two ways that our cells die

One is necrosis and is caused by an external factor like trauma and infection. These damage the whole part of the cell, especially the cell wall and mitochondrion.  The mitochondrion, when damaged, will release destructive enzymes which will then leak out of the damaged cell wall and affect the surrounding tissues.

Necrosis will trigger the inflammatory process to get rid of the toxins and the dead cells.  But in people with autoimmune disease, a weak immune system, or genetic predisposition to cancer, this natural, first line of defense by the body becomes overactive and worsens the condition.

Now this is important to note because inflammation plays a role in tumor progression[i].  In fact, numerous data has shown that many cancers can develop from sites of chronic inflammation.  Tumors are, as one study said, like a wound that did not heal properly.

The other type of cell death is through apoptosis and it isn’t caused by an external factor. Instead, this is governed by internal factors like the release of hormones and growth factors and the production of cytokines.

The main difference between the two, seeing as they’re both kinds of cell death, is that necrosis damages the healthy cells because the destructive enzymes and proteins are leaking out of the damaged ones.

But this is not the case with apoptosis. Apoptosis involves only the death of the damaged cell. There is no cell wall damage, so even if the mitochondrion leaks its destructive enzymes and proteins, they stay within the cell and do not leak out. When the cell is dead, the macrophages will come, engulf it, and destroy the cell.

This is how CBD inhibits cancer growth.  It induces apoptosis of the cancer cell[ii] by activating a special enzyme called the caspase.  This enzyme plays a very crucial role in apoptosis. Its activation sees to it that the cell death occurs in a controlled and clean manner without affecting the normal cells.

In addition to activating caspase signaling, CBD also increases the generation of reactive oxygen species within the cell, which then also induces apoptosis.

What’s more is that CBD can also induce autophagy of the cancer cell. This means that there is a controlled degradation as well as recycling of the damaged cells.

With CBD inducing apoptosis and autophagy of the abnormal cells, cancer growth will be inhibited.

CBD can inhibit cancer angiogenesis.

Do you know why cancer cells grow and multiply?

It’s because of angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis is the process by which blood vessels branch out to form new blood vessels. This is an important physiological function as it plays a role a role in growth, development, and healing of wounds and injuries.

Unfortunately though, cancer cells take advantage of this normal process.

The cancer cells send chemical signals to the normal cells for them to produce molecules that will signal the start of angiogenesis.  With blood vessels forming and growing near the cancer cells, the cancer growth will soon have its own supply of fresh blood to feed it.  With the new blood vessels transporting nutrients and oxygen to the cancer growth, they will grow bigger, invade the space, and affect the organs near it.

CBD has the ability to prevent angiogenesis[iii] and the formation of new blood vessels by inhibiting the chemical signals for angiogenesis.  What’s more is that CBD can also inhibit the growth of the endothelial cells without inducing its apoptosis.  Endothelial cells, you should know, are important in the formation of new blood vessels.

With CBD suppressing the chemical signals for angiogenesis and preventing endothelial cells from growing and migrating, angiogenesis will be inhibited.  The cancer growth won’t have its own blood supply, and without its blood supply, it won’t grow in size and metastasize.

Metastasize…the third reason why cancer can be a very aggressive disease.

CBD can inhibit cancer metastasis.

Metastasis means the migration of cancer cells and its invasion of an otherwise cancer-free site.

The main way how cancer cells migrate and invade other tissues is by traveling in the blood stream and through the lymphatic system.  The cancer cells can break away from the growth, travel via the blood and the lymph, attach to a blood vessel supplying an organ, and start to wreak havoc there.

One of the factors that promote cancer metastasis is the epidermal growth factor.  Activating its signaling pathways by stimulating the epidermal growth factor receptors not only promotes cancer growth but it also stimulates the spread and invasiveness of the cancer.  Its activation also increases the cancer cells’ survival rate.

Now, CBD has the ability to suppress cancer metastasis[iv] by inhibiting the epidermal growth factor from activating the pathway. With this deactivated, it won’t be able to activate their downstream targets, which are also integral in the proliferation and metastasis of cancer cells.

CBD also inhibits the recruitment of tumor-associated macrophages to the tumor site.  This is important because this type of macrophage play a role in angiogenesis and motility of the cancer cells.

Tumor-associated macrophages are mostly found in areas where there are tumor and cancer growths, but instead of these macrophages getting rid of the cancer cells, what happens is that the cancer cells influence these macrophages, sort of like hijacking them.  Instead of getting rid of them, the macrophages will “aid the cancer cells in their escape[v]” and act as their cellular chaperones, thus resulting in the metastasis.

In fact, these tumor-associated macrophages make up a large percentage of the cancer growth.

CBD can suppress the inflammatory process – CBD is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.

Remember when I said that the inflammatory process can worsen the progression of cancer growth, proliferation, and metastasis?

CBD, when it binds to the CB2 receptors of immune cells, can induce their apoptosis[vi] and reduce their production of cytokines.  Cytokines are kind detrimental in a way because they recruit more immune cells to the site, which then worsens and prolongs inflammation.

CBD can reduce the side effects of traditional cancer treatment methods.

I mentioned above that the traditional methods for treating cancer has so many adverse side effects – weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain, etc.

CBD can counteract all these side effects[vii].  It can improve peripheral neuropathy[viii] and pain associated with cancer[ix]; it can help with nausea and vomiting[x]; and it can improve appetite.

THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, also produces similar CBD effects[xi] as demonstrated by numerous research and studies.  Right now, THC and CBD combinations are being used to manage the side effects of cancer and its different treatment methods.

Is CBD the Cure for Cancer?

At this point, it’s not conclusive enough to call CBD a cure for cancer. Unfortunately there are only a limited amount of clinical trials that have been done on humans. 

CBD and THC however have definitely shown to be effective at making life easier on people suffering with cancer by helping them manage pain, promote appetite, and remove nausea. These effects alone make CBD a worthwhile supplement to use for cancer patients. 

There are many anecdotal stories out there of people who cured their cancer with the use of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. However we need more clinical studies to confirm the anecdotal reports. 

Research and studies show that CBD has the potential to work for cancer by inducing cancer cell apoptosis, inhibiting angiogenesis which promotes its growth, reducing its proliferation, and minimizing its metastatic properties.  CBD has the ability to do all these safely without harming the normal, healthy cells[xii].

The effects of CBD on numerous types of cancers have been studied, and they showed very positive results.  CBD is effective against breast cancer[xiii], brain cancer[xiv], cervical cancer[xv], prostate cancer[xvi], lung cancer[xvii], leukemia[xviii], among others.

There are two studies on humans on CBD and cancer that you may want to check out:

So if the question is, can CBD really help patients with cancer?

Science and facts seem to say so.


[i] Lisa M. Coussens and Zena Werb.  December 19, 2002.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Inflammation and Cancer.


[ii] Ashutosh Shrivastava, et al. July 2011.

American Association for Cancer Research. Cannabidiol Induces Programmed Cell Death in Breast Cancer Cells by Coordinating the Cross-talk between Apoptosis and Autophagy.


[iii] M Solinas, et al. November 2012.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms.


[iv] Mohamad Elbaz, et al.  January 19, 2010.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Modulation of the tumor microenvironment and inhibition of EGF/EGFR pathway; novel anti-tumor mechanisms of Cannabidiol in breast cancer.


[v] Thomas N. Seyfried and Leanne C. Huysentruyt.  2013.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, On the Origin of Cancer Metastasis.


[vi] George W. Booz. January 14, 2011.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress.


[vii] DI Abrams, MD. March 23, 2016.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care.


[viii] Elizabeth J. Rahn and Andrea G. Hohmann, October 2009.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: From the bench to the bedside.


[ix] United Press International, Marijuana extract helps prevent chemo pain.


[x] Linda A. Parker and Erin M. Rock, et al. August 2011.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids.


[xi] National Cancer Institute, Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version.


[xii] Paolo Massi, et al. February 2013.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug.


[xiii] SD McAllister, et al. September 22, 2010.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Pathways mediating the effects of cannabidiol on the reduction of breast cancer cell proliferation, invasion, and metastasis.


[xiv] P. Massi, et al. November 14, 2003.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Antitumor effects of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, on human glioma cell lines.


[xv] Sindiswa T. Lukhele and Lesetja R. Motadi. September 1, 2016.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells.


[xvi] Manju Sharma, et al.  July 2014.

Scientific Research, In Vitro Anticancer Activity of Plant-Derived Cannabidiol on Prostate Cancer Cell Lines.


[xvii] R. Ramer, et al.  December 23, 2011.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion and metastasis via intercellular adhesion molecule-1.


[xviii] RJ McKallip, et al.  June 5, 2006.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabidiol-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells: A novel role of cannabidiol in the regulation of p22phox and Nox4 expression.


[xix] Y Singh and C Bali. November 28, 2013.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cannabis extract treatment for terminal acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a Philadelphia chromosome mutation.


[xx] M Foroughi and G Hendson, et al. February 20, 2011.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Spontaneous regression of septum pellucidum/forniceal pilocytic astrocytomas–possible role of Cannabis inhalation.


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