Mice with pancreatic cancer treated with a combination of cannabidiol (CBD) from Marijuana and chemotherapy survived nearly three times longer than those treated with chemo alone.

Pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest forms of cancer.  The American Cancer Society says only about five percent of those with the condition survive for five years, and around 80 percent die within a year of diagnosis.  Globally, it's the the twelth most-common cancer with the highest incidence occuring in developed countries.

"It is very aggressive, so it is very important to find new therapies for this cancer," said Dr. Riccardo Ferro, first author of the research from Queen Mary University of London.

Marijuana contains hundreds of compounds, and CBD is the non-psychoactive, non-intoxicating compound which has already been shown to improve side effects of chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting.  The researchers from Australia, UK, and Italy carried out experiments both on cells in dishes and on mice that had been genetically modified to develop pancreatic cancer.  They found CBD blocks the receptors on the gene associated with pancreatic cancer, preventing them from interacting with other substances that promote the growth and multiplication of the cancer cells.  They also found CBD hinders the development of resistance to cancer medications.

"Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics (in the UK), which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials," said lead researcher Marco Falasca from Queen Mary University of London. 

In Australia, CBD oil is a Schedule 4 drug; it's available under certain conditions from pharmacies with a valid prescription from a doctor.  In the US, it's still viewed with suspicion by Federal authorities, although the US FDA approving the first drug comprised of CBD to treat severe forms of epilepsy in June of this year.

The number of mice tested for this study was very small, and there's no way to predict how humans might respond to the same treatment.  But some see it as the dawn of new medical treatments.  Professor David Nutt, a former UK government adviser on drugs, welcomed the new study:  "This is one drop in what I suspect will become a torrent of research findings showing therapeutic value of cannabinoids in a range of cancers."