New research has shown that using an extract from the cannabis plant can have dramatic effects on brain tumours.

This new research has found that when an extract from cannabis is used concurrently with radiotherapy tumours can “virtually disappear”. This comes courtesy of specialists at St George’s, University of London who have been studying the treatment of brain tumours. They have discovered that the most effective way to treat these brain tumours, albeit in a lab setting, is by combining active chemical components of the cannabis plant which are called cannabinoids with radiotherapy.

Two of these cannabinoids were; tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, and cannabidiol, CBD, were tested as part of the research into brain cancer. The reason that this research is being conducted however, beyond scientific curiosity, is that brain cancer and brain tumours claim roughly 5,200 lives each year. The worry however has to be that when someone is diagnosed with a brain tumour the rate of survival after 5 years is around 10%, making it a particularly daunting prognosis.

Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in cannabis, and are also known more specifically as phytocannabinoids. There are 85 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant with varying results; the most pronounced being THC, which in large doses can induce hallucinations.

The new research is the first to show how profound an effect combining THC and CBD with irradiation can have on tumours. Tumours growing in the brains of mice were drastically slowed down when THC and CBD was used with irradiation.

Dr Wai Liu, Senior Research Fellow and lead researcher on the project, said; “The results are extremely exciting. The tumours were treated in a variety of ways, either with no treatment, the cannabinoids alone, and irradiation alone or with both the cannabinoids and irradiation at the same time. Those treated with both irradiation and the cannabinoids saw the most beneficial results and a drastic reduction in size. In some cases, the tumours effectively disappeared in the animals. This augurs well for further research in humans in the future. At the moment this is a mostly fatal disease.”

She would finish her statement by saying, “The benefits of the cannabis plant elements were known before but the drastic reduction of brain cancers if used with irradiation is something new and may well prove promising for patients who are in gravely serious situations with such cancers in the future.”

This is not the first time cannabis has been shown to have some fairly major health benefits. The drug is also used in the treatment of, Multiple sclerosis symptoms, Neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson disease, Huntington disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Cannabis has also been shown to have positive effects on other neurological disorders such as, Tourette syndrome and Epilepsy.

Currently the research team are discussing using cannabinoids with irradiation in a human clinical trial.