Does Cannabidiol Have a Benefit as a Supportive Care Drug in Cancer?

Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2022 Apr;23(4):514-525. doi: 10.1007/s11864-021-00934-0. Epub 2022 Mar 22.


Cannabinoids have been purported as having a wide range of therapeutic uses although currently, there is minimal evidence to support these claims. Patients with advanced cancer experience many distressing symptoms, with some turning to medicinal cannabis to help alleviate these. Focus has fallen on cannabidiol (CBD) as a potential treatment for a variety of symptoms in advanced cancer due to the lack of psychoactive side effects and the potential molecular mechanisms of action associated with this cannabinoid. Many cannabinoid products are easily available in the community, and more countries are legalizing or allowing over the counter products. Studies show that CBD is generally well tolerated, but there are many potential drug interactions that have not been well studied. Few studies have specifically looked at the role of CBD in treating cancer symptoms, with most focusing on combination cannabinoid products. There are currently many unknowns associated with CBD, including which symptoms it might be best for, appropriate dosing, and route of administration. This is especially important in advanced cancer where patients often have significant organ dysfunction and frailty that could impact on the pharmacology of CBD. A small pilot study has shown promise for a role of CBD in the psychological symptoms associated with advanced cancer. Further research is currently underway to further clarify the role of CBD in this setting and to understand how best it might help our patients. Currently we advocate that CBD be used in supervised clinical trials, so that efficacy and adverse effects can be closely monitored.

Keywords: Advanced cancer; Cannabidiol; Cannabis; Supportive care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol* / adverse effects
  • Cannabidiol* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids* / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids* / therapeutic use
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Pilot Projects


  • Cannabinoids
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol