Marijuana improves effectiveness of radiation in treating some forms of cancer

Short post today about a paper that came out at the end of 2014 on how some of the compounds in marijuana might play a role in cancer treatment.

This is marijuana.

Medicinal marijuana is thought to help seizures and pain, but is generally used more to treat symptoms than to treat diseases directly.

Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that marijuana may actually be helpful in the treatment of some diseases directly.

Scott et al. (2014) showed that two compounds found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation therapy in the context of mice with glioma, a very aggressive cancer that has very poor long-term survival rates in humans. THC was best administered as a botanical drug substance, while CBD was best administered in a pure form.

These are mice.

There is a big hole in our knowledge of marijuana use in medical treatment. That will probably not change soon unless its current classification as a Schedule I drug is changed. Schedule I means that it’s extremely difficult for scientists to even do research on a substance. The current lack of support by the FDA is cited as due to a lack of high quality research on the topic, yet the classification means that it’s unlikely there will be much high quality research anytime soon. Kind of a silly catch-22, especially when highly-addictive narcotic-type drugs like hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl are Schedule II and prescribed by doctors constantly.

For the record, I don’t have a strong opinion either way about legalization for recreational use, but I think that the government preventing scientific research on a potentially effective treatment is unfortunate.


Scott, KA, Dalgleish, AG, Liu, WM (2014) The combination of cannabidiol and d9 – tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Mol. Cancer Ther. 13 (12): 2955-2967