Cannabis , also known as marijuana, originated in Central Asia but is grown worldwide today. In the United States, it is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use). The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing psychoactive compounds called cannabinoids. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the female flowers of the plant. Clinical trials conducted on medicinal Cannabis are limited. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of Cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition. To conduct clinical drug research in the United States, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA.
The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. Although few relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients in the United States who recommend medicinal Cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management. A growing number of pediatric patients are seeking symptom relief with Cannabis or cannabinoid treatment, although studies are limited.
Cannabinoids are a group of terpenophenolic compounds found in Cannabis species (e.g., Cannabis sativa L.). This summary will review the role of Cannabis and the cannabinoids in the treatment of people with cancer and disease-related or treatment-related side effects.