Medicinal cannabis (Cannabis sativa) and its use by cancer patients has been brought to the forefront due to changes in policy and regulation in Australia. The potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for cancer symptom relief has been subject to a number of government reviews in addition to public debate in recent years. Currently, there is evidence for medicinal cannabis use for individuals with cancer in the management of nausea and vomiting, as adjunctive analgesic for severe pain, and as an appetite stimulant. However to date, there is no systematic literature review which comprehensively examines the current research regarding medicinal cannabis in all cancers and cancer-related symptoms.
To examine the current scientific evidence on medicinal cannabis and cancer.
A narrative systematic literature review evaluating the evidence on medicinal cannabis research for the treatment and management of cancer on humans, animals and in vitro has been conducted. The databases used included PubMed, Scopus, EMBASE, Cochrane and AMED. Inclusion criteria included any original research on cannabis and cancer. All manuscripts were filtered and assessed for bias. The manuscripts for human, animal and in vitro were separated at the end of the full text exclusion.
The results found that medicinal cannabis shows promise in assisting patients with cancer for various symptomology, in addition to having potential anti-cancer activity. Trials have confirmed benefits for nausea and vomiting, pain and appetite simulation, potential anticancer actions (in vitro and in vivo), reduction of seizure activity and sleep assistance.
This review indicates that further clinical trials are required to ascertain the benefits of medicinal cannabis as well as the dosage, ratio of cannabinoids for different symptoms or cancers, timing, potential interactions and targeted population most appropriate for this herbal medicine.