In Israel, cancer is a leading cause of death, and is thus considered a major health problem in that country. Palliative care focused on alleviating pain and nausea in patients with advanced stages of this disease is an important part in the treatment of cancer. Since 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Health has been approving the use of medical cannabis for the palliative treatment of cancer symptoms. A study by Israeli scientists published in 2018 characterized the epidemiology of cancer patients receiving medical cannabis treatment and described the safety and efficacy of this therapy.
The researchers analyzed the data routinely collected as part of the treatment program of 2970 cancer patients treated with medical cannabis between 2015 and 2017.
The average age of the patients was 59.5?±?16.3?years. 54.6 percent of them were women, and 26.7 percent of all the patients reported previous experience with cannabis.
More than 50 percent were already at stage-4 cancer.
Breast cancer was the most frequent type of cancer at 20.7 percent, followed by lung (13.6 percent), pancreatic (8.1 percent) and colorectal (7.9 percent) cancers.
The main symptoms requiring therapy were: sleep problems (78.4 percent), pain (77.7 percent), weakness (72.7 percent), nausea (64.6 percent) and lack of appetite (48.9 percent). The median for pain intensity was 8/10 on the pain scale.
Nine hundred and two patients (24.9 percent) died and 682 (18.8 percent) stopped the cannabis treatment after six months of follow-up.
Out of the 1,386 patients remaining, 1,211 responded.
Close to 96 percent reported an improvement in their condition, 45 patients (3.7 percent) reported no change and four patients (0.3 percent) reported deterioration in their medical condition.
The scientists concluded that cannabis seems to be an effective, safe and well-tolerated option in the palliative care of cancer patients suffering from pain and nausea brought about by the disease.
Schleider LB-L, Mechoulam R, Lederman V, Hilou M, Lencovsky O, Betzalel O, Shbiro L, Novack V. PROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF MEDICAL CANNABIS IN LARGE UNSELECTED POPULATION OF PATIENTS WITH CANCER. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2018;49:37–43. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.023