Prospective analysis of safety and efficacy of medical cannabis in large unselected population of patients with cancer
As a leading cause of death, cancer is a major public health problem with approxmiately 12.7 million new cases a year in the USA alone. A focus of oncology is palliative care, with the goal of alleviating pain, nausea and vomiting in patients with advanced-stage disease. In Israel, license for medical cannabis purchase and consumption has become available to cancer patients for the palliation of these symptoms under doctor recommendation since 2007. A recent study has demonstrated the promising safety and efficacy of this therapy.
Data routinely collected as part of a treatment program of 2970 cancer patients receiving medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017 were analyzed. Patients in this cohort represented a wide range of cancers, with the most frequent types being breast, lung, pancreatic and colorectal. 51.2% of the patients were at the most advanced stage of disease progression, and 26.7% reported previous experience with cannabis. The main reason these patients received cannabis therapy was to address sleep problems, intense pain, weakness, nausea and lack of appetite.
At the six-month follow-up, 24.9% of the patients had passed away and 18.8% had stopped the treatment. Of the remaining, 60.6% responded to follow-up surveys, among which 95.9% reported an improvement in their condition, 43.7% reported no change and only 0.3% reported deterioration in their medical condition. Only 30.3% indicated that they experienced some types of unwanted effects. Overall, through this study, the author demonstrated that cannabis seems to be a well tolerated, effective and safe palliative treatment option to help cancer patients cope with common disease symptoms and side-effects of chemotherapy.