Is cannabis a treatment for brain tumours? | Cancer Research UK
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Is cannabis a treatment for brain tumours?

This page has information about cannabis and brain tumours. There is information on


What cannabis is

You may also know cannabis as marijuana, pot, grass, weed, hemp, hashish or dope. Scientific names include Cannabis sativa and delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis is a plant that grows wild in many hotter regions of the world. People have used parts of the plant in herbal remedies for centuries.


Research into cannabis as a cancer treatment

In the past few years cannabis has been the subject of a lot of medical research. There were many media reports in August 2004 about very early stage research into the use of chemical cannabinoids to help treat a type of brain tumour called glioblastoma multiforme. Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in marijuana. Complutense University in Madrid and the University hospital of Tenerife jointly carried out the research. Their results were published in the medical journal Cancer Research in August 2004.

The research found that cannabinoids interfere with the activity of genes needed to produce a chemical called VEGF. VEGF stands for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. It helps to make new cells grow.

VEGF is one of the most important chemicals controlling blood vessel growth. Doctors call the growth of new blood vessels angiogenesis. As they get bigger, cancers need to grow their own blood vessels. Without its own blood supply to bring food and take away waste from cells, a cancer can’t grow bigger than a pea. If doctors could block VEGF, this could limit the growth of blood vessels supplying tumours and so they won’t be able to grow. This is called anti VEGF treatment.


Clinical trials

In order to see if these results are a real benefit, clinical trials need to be done. Some centres in the UK have been conducting a randomised phase 1 trial for patients who have a recurrence of glioblastoma following chemo-radiation. Patients either had temozolomide and Sativex (a cannabinoid spray) or temozolomide and placebo spray. The trial has now closed and we are waiting for the results. You can read more about this clinical trial

There is information about clinical trials elsewhere on this website. If you are looking for trials that are open and recruiting patients in the UK, go to our clinical trials database.


More information about brain tumours

There is information about brain tumours and their treatment in the brain tumour section.

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Updated: 5 November 2015