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Marijuana Could Treat Pain From Bone Cancer, Research Shows

By on July 24, 2013
Metastatic bone pain is the most common cause of pain in cancer patients.

Metastatic bone pain is the most common cause of pain among cancer patients. – Pain is a common reason for cancer patients to use medical marijuana. And while pain can accompany almost any form of cancer, patients with bone cancer tend to experience the most severe and difficult-to-treat pain of all. Now, new research out of the University of Minnesota suggests that marijuana could provide relief for these patients too.

Published in the latest issue of Neuroscience, the results show that cannabinoids – chemicals found in cannabis – can act to inhibit pain signals caused by bone tumors. These signals come from nerves called nociceptors and travel to the brain where they initiate feelings of pain. However, when cannabinoids bind to specific receptors on these nerves, the signals seem to slow down.

Although the study only looked at rat models treated with the synthetic cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2, THC is also known to activate cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). As such, the authors believe their findings could have much wider applications.

“These results provide additional rationale for targeting both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the periphery for the management of cancer pain and perhaps for other persistent pain states as well.”

Each year, over 1.6 million people are diagnosed with some form of cancer and approximately 50% will eventually suffer from chronic pain. The percentage of pain sufferers is much higher in bone cancer.

While the new findings still need to be confirmed in humans, the researchers remind us that treating cancer pain is a “major clinical challenge” and that evidence continues to suggest that “cannabinoids may be a useful treatment” for these patients.

The study was conducted at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences and funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA).