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CBD Doubles the Life Expectancy of Mice with Terminal Pancreatic Cancer

Emily Robertson
Cancer cell spitting animation

CBD oil has an astonishing improvement in life expectancy for mice with terminal pancreatic cancer. Human trials are next. 

Medical professionals have generally approved the use of CBD oil for certain ailments, even in those areas where cannabis is not legal. For instance, though some forms of medical cannabis are just now becoming legal in the United Kingdom, CBD oil has been in use for years. Because of this, research into the cannabinoid has been much more common than for cannabis as a whole. Now, researchers at Queen Mary University in London have discovered another use for CBD: prolonging the life of pancreatic cancer victims by almost double.

Doctor showing pancreas

Image Credit: Shidlovski

In recent years, the use of CBD for cancer sufferers has been mainly restricted to easing symptoms of cancer and helping them cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. More and more research has shown that cannabis may be able to prevent cancer, and even help to destroy cancer cells, but CBD on its own has not yet been proven to do so. This study, however, shows the potential for CBD in prolonging life.

Cancer Patient in wheelchair

Image Credit: VG Stock Studio

The Study

The study, published this summer in Oncogene, was conducted by scientific researchers at Queen Mary University in London, England and was funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.

Researchers examined three different groups of mice, each with pancreatic cancer: those left untreated, those with chemotherapy, and those with CBD and chemotherapy. The CBD they used was an extract – any amounts of THC would have been trace levels. The chemotherapy drug used in the study was Gemcitabine – one of the more common drugs for this style of cancer treatment.

Arm of cancer patient receiving treatment

Image Credit: Napocska

The Results of CBD Trial for Pancreatic Cancer

The study found that in those mice that went untreated for pancreatic cancer, survival periods were only an average of 20 days. Mice that were treated with chemotherapy didn’t fare much better, with a median survival period of 23.5 days. Meanwhile, those mice that were treated with both chemotherapy and CBD oil survived a median of 56 days. Talk about a big improvement!

But, why? Well it seems that the combination of CBD and Gemcitabine helps to block a protein called GPR55, which contributes to the spread of pancreatic cancer cells. In blocking the protein, the growth of these cells is also blocked.


Image Credit: El Roi

The benefit of CBD is that it also helps to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, aching, and anxiety can be eased with CBD oils that are already on the market.

In the past four decades, there has been no improvement in treatment for pancreatic cancer. Survivor rates have remained stagnant as researchers and scientists desperately look for better options. This may be the key to a new treatment. Or, at the very least, it’s a start towards prolonging life and improving quality of life for those struggling with this cancer.

Cancer cell spitting animation

Image Credit: Giovanni Cancemi

The Limitations of the Study

No study is without its limitations. Pancreatic cancer, so far, has proven to be one of the most difficult to treat. CBD could be a good step in the right direction, but unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problem.

The largest issue is that not all pancreatic cancers are GPR55 protein dependent. In fact, only a third of pancreatic cancers are worsened with GPR55. That means that only a third of patients would see any reduction in the growth of their cancer cells, even if the side effects of chemo are lessened by CBD.

Lab Mouse peeking out from its cage

Image Credit: Kirill Kurashov

This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used by cancer clinics, however. The third that CBD works for are obviously worth the extra effort, so this doesn’t necessarily diminish the benefits. And because CBD is often legal and regulated even when cannabis isn’t, it should, in theory, have an easier time making it onto the market for more general use. This contrasts with other cannabis treatments for cancer that often contain the psychoactive THC, and are therefore criminalized much more regularly.

Cannabis Plant

Image Credit: Lifestyle Discover

The other limitation is that research hasn’t yet shown how CBD may interact, either negatively or positively, with other cancer treatments. These trials were with mice – human clinical trials are a crucial next step in uncovering the uses of CBD and cannabis generally alongside cancer treatments.

But these studies offer hope and promise to those struggling with pancreatic cancer. With further studies, we can come to understand the full benefits of this important medicine.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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