Introduction: A flowering plant of variegated ingredients and psychoactive qualities, Cannabis has long been used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Regulatory approvals have been gained across a broad range of palliative and therapeutic indications, and in some cases, included in standard treatment guidelines.
Areas covered: The use of Cannabis and cannabinoid-based-medicines in oncology is summarized in this article. Cannabinoids are classified according to natural and synthetic subtypes and their mechanisms of action expounded. The variability of available products is discussed in the clinical context and data regarding chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, cancer-related pain, anorexia, insomnia, and anxiety are presented. Moreover, immunological and antineoplastic effects in preclinical and clinical trials are addressed. Concepts such as synergism or opposition with conventional treatment modalities, the sequence of administration and dosage, molecular cross-talk and malignancy-cannabinoid congruence, are explored. Finally, side-effects, limitations in trial design and legislation barriers are related.
Expert opinion: Sufficient evidence supports the use of Cannabis for palliative indications in oncology; however, patients should be carefully selected, guided and followed. Promising research suggests the potent antineoplastic activity, but more data must be accrued before conclusions can be drawn.
Keywords: Cannabis; anti-neoplastic; cancer; drug interactions; immunology; medical marijuana; nausea and vomiting; pain; palliative oncology.