During this video Dr. Mary Clifton speaks about the studies which show cannabis and THC as effective at managing nausea and appetite near the end of life or during chemotherapy. 


What you’ll Learn

  • Comparison of  Synthetic THC Versus a Steroid
  • Weight loss and Cancer
  • Nausea and Cancer

The Connection between THC, Cannabis, Nausea and Cancer

Some studies in the 1990s suggest that cannabis would be effective at managing nausea and appetite, near the end of life and during chemotherapy for cancer patients, but how does cannabis really stack up to the steroid treatments that we use now, very potent steroids that help to significantly reduce inflammation, but also significantly stimulate appetite?

Well, that study has been done. A study looked at a slightly lower dose of dronabinol, the synthetic cannabis product, compared to megestrol acetate, a cannabis versus a steroid. These two agents have been used in combination in the 1990s. Although the steroid was found to have a more profound effect in appetite stimulation, the dronabinol was very well tolerated, and even at a very low dose, the dronabinol improved appetite in nearly 50% of patients, with comparable toxicities between the two groups.

It’s hard to really get a good definition around anorexia, the loss of appetite, and weight loss in cancer patients. It’s surprisingly underestimated, and probably under-treated, and probably goes under-diagnosed because we don’t have an excellent definition as to what really distinguishes somebody who’s losing weight in a dangerous way surrounding their cancer or their chemotherapy. So the use of the oral dronabinol, in combination with other therapies or the use of a different cannabis preparation, may provide an additional treatment option in patients who are experiencing loss of appetite or weight loss associated with their cancer.

Studies showed that the number needed to treat, to completely control nausea, was six, and the number to completely control vomiting was eight. Now, the number needed to treat is a statistically relevant number that mathematicians have created, that really tells us how many people we need to treat with a drug before we get one person who gets a great response. So numbers of one to six or one to eight for nausea or vomiting are pretty amazing numbers.

As a general internist, when I gave patients cholesterol lowering medications, I had to treat 200 patients with cholesterol lowering medications to prevent just one stroke or heart attack, so these medications are profoundly therapeutic in this setting, and may provide significant improvement, standing alone or in combination with the steroids that your doctor is already recommending.