Patients periodically ask me about the use of marijuana to treat cancer. Is there any data about this? —Name withheld on request

Most of the clinical data on marijuana in cancer treatment is related to using marijuana or specific compounds of marijuana in the management of cancer-related side effects.1 

As far as anticancer effects of marijuana, some studies utilizing cancer cell lines or mice cancer models have demonstrated potential anticancer activity. Translating this data to anticancer activity in humans is complicated by multiple factors.

Marijuana consists of thousands of chemical compounds and varies from strain to strain, complicating the process of isolating potential active compounds to produce reliable, consistent doses in future animal or human studies.

The bottom line for patients is that current data do not support using marijuana for anticancer effects.

REFERENCE

1. Cannabis and Cannabinoids–for health care professionals (PDQ). National Cancer Institute Web site. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq. Updated August 28, 2015. Accessed October 19, 2015.