‘Can CBD oil treat prostate cancer?’ and other questions from Bill Turnbull’s documentary
Bill Turnbull’s powerful documentary got plenty of people talking about the various treatment options he tried. One of our expert Clinical Nurse Specialists answers some commonly asked questions.
Did you see Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive on Channel 4? It’s a powerful documentary that follows the TV presenter and journalist currently living with advanced prostate cancer as he goes through chemotherapy, tries diets and complementary therapies, and speaks to others with the disease, including Stephen Fry.
Many of you had questions and comments about the show. Here, one of our Specialist Nurses, Sophie, answers some commonly asked questions.
Q. Can cannabis help cure prostate cancer?
At the moment, we don’t know if cannabis can help treat prostate cancer. Some studies have looked at the effect of chemicals in cannabis, called cannabinoids, on prostate cancer cells. There are two main cannabinoids that have been investigated – THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The studies found that cannabinoids may stop prostate cancer cells from growing and dividing, cause prostate cancer cells to die, and stop prostate cancer cells from invading other tissues and spreading.
But these studies have only looked at prostate cancer cells grown in laboratories or in mice. There’s a long way to go in understanding whether there might be similar effects in patients. Cells can behave very differently in humans, so we need clinical trials in humans to see if cannabinoids could be used to treat prostate cancer. We also don’t yet understand the mechanism by which the cannabinoids prevent prostate cancer cells from growing or dividing either.
Also, cannabinoids can have side effects that are unpleasant or even harmful. It’s important to remember that the cannabinoids used in studies are made in a laboratory and are only one of many chemicals that are found in cannabis. Street-bought (recreational) cannabis contains chemicals that can cause you to hallucinate and could harm your mental health.
At the moment, we don’t know if cannabis can help to treat prostate cancer.
There’s some evidence that cannabis-based medicines can help with long-term pain, including pain caused by cancer. Currently doctors in the UK can only prescribe cannabis-based medicines to treat nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy – when other medicines haven’t worked. Cannabis-based medicines aren’t available to treat cancer-related pain unless you’re taking part in a clinical trial. If you’re interested, your doctor should be able to tell you about any clinical trials that might be suitable. You can also search for clinical trials at www.bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk
It’s important to remember that it’s illegal to grow or sell cannabis in the UK. It’s also illegal to have any cannabis-based products, unless a doctor has prescribed them for medicinal use. CBD oil is legal, but only if it contains extremely low levels of THC (less than 0.2%). However, there’s little evidence to suggest CBD oil benefits cancer patients and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Q. Can changing my diet and keeping physically active help fight prostate cancer?
This is a topic people often call us about. Eating healthily, being physically active and staying a healthy weight is important for general health, but can be especially important for men with prostate cancer.
Why? Well, firstly because there’s strong evidence that being overweight increases the risk of aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.
Staying a healthy weight may also mean your prostate cancer is less likely to spread after surgery or radiotherapy. And if you’re having hormone therapy to treat your prostate cancer, your treatment may be less effective if you’re very overweight.
If you’re experiencing side effects from prostate cancer treatment, such as weight gain, bone thinning or hot flushes from hormone therapy, bowel problems or urinary problems, making changes to your lifestyle may also help you manage them.
Our diet and physical activity factsheet is a great resource we often recommend to people with questions.
Eating healthily, being physically active and staying a healthy weight is also important for men with prostate cancer.
Q. Bill and his friend Nick made a vegetable broth which they said was great for men with prostate cancer. Are there any particular foods which help fight advanced prostate cancer?
People often ask us about foods they’ve heard might slow down the growth of prostate cancer, or lower the chance of it coming back after treatment. These include soya beans and other pulses, green tea, tomatoes and lycopene (a plant chemical found in tomatoes), cruciferous vegetables (for example, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and pomegranate.
In all of these cases, there’s some evidence to suggest they might be helpful for men with prostate cancer – but other studies haven’t shown any effect. This means we can’t say for sure whether any of these foods can help.
Q. What treatments are available for men with advanced prostate cancer?
If you have prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer), treatment won’t cure your cancer. But it can help keep it under control and manage any symptoms, often for several years.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, you may be offered some or a combination of the following treatments: chemotherapy with hormone therapy, hormone therapy alone, clinical trials, and in some cases, radiotherapy to the prostate.
If your cancer starts to grow again after your first treatment, there are other treatments that you can have to help control the cancer and manage any symptoms. These include: hormone therapy, including abiraterone or enzalutamide; more chemotherapy, radium-223(Xofigo®)or clinical trials.
There are also treatments available to manage symptoms, such as bone pain. They include: pain-relieving drugs, radiotherapy and bisphosphonates.
We Specialist Nurses are here to discuss your options whatever your situation, with all the time you need to talk.
The emotional impact
As Bill’s powerful documentary shows, an advanced prostate cancer diagnosis can have a huge emotional impact on you and your family. We know it can be really overwhelming, and that’s why we’re here to support anyone affected by prostate cancer. We also have lots of online information on dealing with the emotional impact.
Here’s a useful ‘how to manage’ guide specifically about advanced prostate cancer, with films of real-life stories and tips from people who have been through similar experiences.
If Bill’s documentary sparked questions or worries about prostate cancer or other prostate problems, get in contact with our Specialist Nurses. Call 0800 074 8383 (Monday-Friday: 9am-6pm, Wednesday: 10am-8pm) or chat with us online.
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Ask all the questions you need answers to, or just talk. Our nurses have time for you.
Bill Turnbull: on chemo and the making of his documentary, Staying Alive
Ahead of tonight’s documentary we spoke to our ambassador Bill Turnbull about diagnosis, chemotherapy and the Turnbull/Fry effect.
‘Can CBD oil treat prostate cancer?’ and other questions from Bill Turnbull’s documentary Bill Turnbull’s powerful documentary got plenty of people talking about the various treatment options he
CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know
BY Cynthia DeMarco
CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio.
It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products.
But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know.
What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp?
Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.
The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC.
Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?
Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer.
What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment?
It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized.
There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.
Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?
Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?
Yes. Epidiolex. It was originally approved in 2018 for the treatment of two conditions, both related to epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But aside from Epidiolex, no CBD product has been approved by the FDA for any other medical purpose.
What are the dangers of using CBD oil?
Quality, cleanliness and regulation are the biggest concerns.
All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.
In terms of purity, THC and CBD are both extracted from hemp and marijuana using essentially similar processes. But trace amounts of THC could still end up in CBD oil. And if the THC is at a high enough concentration, it could produce the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.
Second, if a lab produces both CBD and THC products, there can be cross-contamination — whether it’s through extraction, handling or packaging.
Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.
Finally, there have been some reports of people getting infections after using CBD and cannabis products. This is especially concerning for immunocompromised patients, who are already susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.
Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.
Does CBD oil have any side effects?
CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.
And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.
This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.
Is CBD oil even legal?
CBD has a very complex legal status right now.
At the national level, any product of marijuana — including CBD — is still technically illegal when used medically. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationally, that’s only permitted if it’s not marketed for medical use or as a dietary supplement. CBD products intended for medical use should undergo an FDA review process.
State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.
What’s the most important thing cancer patients should know about CBD oil?
There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.
Also, avoid products with health-related claims on their labels. The only product approved by the FDA for its medical value is Epidiolex.
Wondering whether you should use CBD oil to cope with cancer treatment and its side effects? We spoke with Kimberson Tanco, M.D., to separate fact from fiction.