Promising Research on the Use of CBD to Treat Canine Cancer

03/22/2021
Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many chemicals identified in the Cannabis sativa plant, commonly known as hemp. It has been used for palliative care in oncology, but recent studies in humans and rodent models show that it may have direct anti-cancer effects. Since there is little data on the effects of CBD in canine cancer, investigators at Cornell University are studying what happens to canine cancer cells when they are exposed to CBD alone or in combination with common chemotherapy drugs (AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) Grant 02643-A: Examination of the Effects of Cannabidiol on Canine Neoplastic Cell Apoptosis/Autophagy and Potential for Chemotherapy Resistance or Sensitivity). Results were recently published in Veterinary and Comparative Oncology1 and offer hope for canine cancer patients.

Cell cultures from different canine cancers (osteosarcoma, mammary carcinoma, and lymphoma) were exposed to various concentrations of CBD alone and in combination with the common chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin and vincristine. CBD oil caused a significant decrease in cancer cell reproduction in all cell lines studied. Use of CBD-rich whole help extract was able to reduce cancer cell reproduction at lower concentrations than CBD oil alone. This is likely due to the ‘entourage effect’ where the mixture of numerous chemicals seems to work in concert to produce a greater effect. The phenomenon needs more study though, since different cancers have different receptors for these chemicals and not all cultured hemp plants contain the same amounts of these chemicals. CBD in combination with the chemotherapy drug vincristine also decreased cancer cell reproduction in a synergistic way – or with greater effect than either chemical alone. When CBD was combined with doxorubicin, the results varied depending on the concentration of each chemical used.

This study documents the anti-cancer effects of CBD alone and in combination with chemotherapy drugs. It also provides hints as to the mechanisms and pathways that CBD influences in canine cancer cells. Additional study is needed to better understand these mechanisms and define safe and effective dosages for dogs. Whether CBD is used as a primary treatment or to manage the side effects of chemotherapy, additional knowledge will allow for safer and more effective use. CHF and its donors remain committed to exploring new and better treatments for canine cancer, like CBD. Learn more about our cancer research at akcchf.org/oncologyRPA.

1. Henry, J. G., Shoemaker, G., Prieto, J. M., Hannon, M. B., & Wakshlag, J. J. (2020). The effect of cannabidiol on canine neoplastic cell proliferation and mitogen-activated protein kinase activation during autophagy and apoptosis. Veterinary and Comparative Oncology, e12669, e12669. https://doi.org/10.1111/vco.12669

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