EducationThe full guide to CBD oil and immunotherapy

The full guide to CBD oil and immunotherapy

8 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

The full guide to CBD oil and immunotherapy


Immunotherapy has emerged as a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment, harnessing the power of the immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells. As the field of immunotherapy continues to advance, researchers are exploring new strategies to enhance its effectiveness and improve patients' outcomes. One intriguing avenue being explored is the potential synergy between immunotherapy and medical cannabis. CBD (cannabidiol), a natural compound derived from the cannabis plant, is showing promise in this area.

CBD has garnered considerable interest due to its potential therapeutic properties and its ability to interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. Early studies indicate that CBD might have immunomodulatory effects, meaning it can influence the immune response, potentially augmenting the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Furthermore, CBD's anti-inflammatory characteristics and its potential to alleviate pain and mitigate treatment-related side effects could provide additional support to patients undergoing immunotherapy.

Understanding CBD and its properties

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid that typically constitutes up to 40% of the cannabinoid content of the cannabis and hemp plants. It is structurally similar to other cannabinoids found in cannabis, but has its own unique properties. From the perspective of UK law, one of its most important properties is its lack of intoxicating qualities.

In the UK, most CBD products are derived from the hemp plant. The hemp plant is a relative of Cannabis sativa, but has high CBD and minimal to zero THC. Like cannabis, hemp also contains a range of terpenes (aromatic compounds) and flavonoids (colourants). These may have additional therapeutic properties of their own.

CBD is renowned for its capacity to engage with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a sophisticated regulatory system crucial for maintaining balance within the body. The ECS comprises cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2, endocannabinoids synthesised by the body, and enzymes that facilitate their production and breakdown. CB1 receptors are primarily present in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily distributed throughout the immune system and peripheral tissues.

CBD also interacts with several non-cannabinoid receptors and ion channels, including 5-HT1A receptors, TRPV1 receptors, and adenosine receptors. These interactions contribute to the wide range of effects observed with CBD, such as anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic and antioxidant properties.

Furthermore, CBD can influence the release and uptake of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and glutamate, which play crucial roles in mood regulation, pain perception and cognition.

Immunotherapy in cancer treatment

Immunotherapy is a revolutionary strategy in cancer treatment that utilises the body's own immune system to combat and eliminate cancer cells. Unlike conventional therapies, like chemotherapy and radiation, which directly attack cancer cells, immunotherapy focuses on boosting the immune response to recognise and eradicate cancer cells more efficiently.

There are various types of immunotherapy used in cancer treatment. One approach is checkpoint inhibitors, which work by blocking proteins that inhibit the immune response, allowing immune cells to recognise and attack cancer cells. CAR-T cell therapy involves modifying a patient's own T cells to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), enabling them to recognise and destroy cancer cells more precisely. Another type of immunotherapy involves immune system modulators, such as cytokines or immune checkpoint agonists, which stimulate the immune system to enhance its anti-cancer response.

Immunotherapy has emerged as a breakthrough in the field of cancer treatment, revolutionising the approach to fighting various types of cancers. This innovative therapy offers a range of potential benefits that have transformed the landscape of cancer care.

One of the most significant advantages of immunotherapy is its ability to achieve long-term remission and durable responses. Unlike traditional treatments, which may only provide temporary relief, immunotherapy trains the immune system to recognise and target cancer cells, leading to sustained benefits and improved survival rates in many patients.

Another key benefit of immunotherapy is its distinct side effect profile. While traditional treatments like chemotherapy often cause systemic toxicity and can damage healthy cells along with cancer cells, immunotherapy tends to be more targeted and specific. This can result in fewer adverse effects and a better overall quality of life for patients.

Current research on CBD oil and immunotherapy

Current research is exploring the interactions between CBD oil and immunotherapy. Although studies specifically investigating the combined effects of CBD oil and immunotherapy are limited, there is growing interest in their potential synergistic effects.

CBD's potential anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties have been demonstrated to enhance the immune response and promote an unfavourable tumour microenvironment. This suggests that CBD could potentially enhance the therapeutic effects of immunotherapy, leading to improved treatment outcomes.

Furthermore, CBD has been found to possess anti-tumour properties in various cancer models. It may inhibit tumour growth, induce cancer cell death, and suppress the spread of cancer cells. These findings suggest that CBD may complement the actions of immunotherapy by directly targeting cancer cells and enhancing the immune response against them.

But not all the currently available research shows such positive outcomes. This study, titled “Cannabis Consumption Used by Cancer Patients during Immunotherapy Correlates with Poor Clinical Outcome” concludes that cannabis administration during immunotherapy for cancer patients may have considerable immunomodulatory effects and may be associated with worsening clinical outcomes. It also suggests that the application of cannabis as a palliative treatment in advanced cancer patients starting immunotherapy should be carefully considered. With that said, the study has technical limitations and lacks a mechanism to support the hypothesis presented, and the findings should be evaluated in light of these limitations.

Mechanisms of action of CBD in combination with immunotherapy

Firstly, some studies have shown that CBD exhibits immunomodulatory properties by regulating and modulating the immune response. It has the potential to enhance the activity of key immune cells, including T cells and natural killer cells, which play pivotal roles in identifying and eliminating cancer cells. By augmenting the immune system's response, CBD has the ability to potentially improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy agents, which heavily rely on the immune system's ability to recognise and target cancer cells.

Secondly, CBD possesses anti-inflammatory effects. Chronic inflammation can contribute to tumour growth and hinder the immune response. By reducing inflammation, CBD may create a more favourable microenvironment for immunotherapy. This can enhance the ability of immune cells to recognise and effectively attack cancer cells, leading to improved outcomes in combination with immunotherapy.

Thirdly, CBD has shown anti-tumour effects in preclinical studies. It may induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells, inhibit their proliferation, and suppress the formation of blood vessels that supply nutrients to tumours. These potential anti-tumour effects may complement the actions of immunotherapy, which seek to enhance the immune system's ability to eliminate cancer cells.

Benefits and risks of CBD oil in combination with immunotherapy

When considering the use of CBD oil in combination with immunotherapy, it’s crucial to be mindful of potential risks and side effects. CBD has the ability to interact with certain medications, including those utilised in immunotherapy, which could impact their effectiveness or lead to unwanted effects. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals before incorporating CBD oil into immunotherapy regimens is essential to ensure there are no potential drug interactions.

Although CBD is generally well-tolerated, it is essential to be aware that some individuals may experience side effects, including drowsiness, dry mouth or changes in appetite. Vigilant monitoring for any adverse reactions and making appropriate adjustments to the dosage are crucial to ensure safety and achieve the best possible therapeutic outcome.

Overall, it’s advisable to take a cautious and informed approach when combining CBD oil with immunotherapy. By consulting with healthcare professionals and closely monitoring for any potential drug interactions or side effects, it’s possible to minimise risks and maximise the potential benefits of this combination therapy.

CBD oil and immunotherapy in brief

In conclusion, the combination of CBD oil and immunotherapy holds promise in the fight against cancer. CBD's potential immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour effects may enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy and improve therapeutic outcomes.

It is, however, important to look at the studies that do not necessarily support this theory, and it is absolutely crucial to consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating CBD oil into immunotherapy regimens. They can provide guidance, monitor for potential drug interactions and ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment plan.

The collaboration between patients, healthcare professionals, and ongoing scientific research will continue to shape our understanding of the potential benefits (or negatives) of CBD oil in combination with immunotherapy, ultimately advancing cancer treatment strategies.

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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