The potential for new disease research and treatments is expanding thanks to the global adoption of marijuana for medical purposes.
As more countries open the doors to the use and investigation of cannabis, medical applications for the drug are set to expand — indeed, the substance has already shown much promise.
However, in terms of treating skin cancer patients, currently the promise of cannabis outpaces any medically confirmed results or applications.
Though there may be individual cases crediting the drug, cannabis and its derivatives are not being applied to treat skin cancer — at least not yet. Read on to learn about the current situation and future possibilities.
Skin cancer, cannabis and medical research
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for over 5 million cases per year. This category holds many different variations, but the main three types are basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas; the rest are considered rare.
Melanomas develop in specific areas like the neck and face and can be more serious than their counterparts. Basal and squamous cancer cells, on the other hand, develop based on a person’s sun exposure and mostly appear on the head and neck.
The Canadian Cancer Society states that treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy and drug therapy, including the use of topicals.
In the future, cannabis and cancer could be paired up as more research across the globe begins to take place and companies look for new medications and formulations, boosted by the early successes of the drug.
Changes are happening slowly, with one serious improvement being when GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH) obtained approval in the US for its cannabidiol (CBD) solution, which treats seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in toddlers.
After going through its clinical trials, the company’s Epidiolex drug received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, signaling that top medical agencies are ready to confirm the medical prowess of cannabis and its derivatives for the benefit of patients.
Cannabis entering the skincare space
Looking more specifically at cannabis and skin ailments, the National Eczema Association has vouched for CBD as an option in the treatment of eczema, a skin disease that affects over 30 million people in the US.
“It has long been observed that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-itch qualities,” the Independent reported.
A study from the the University of Colorado School of Medicine is looking further into the use of CBD for patients with psoriasis or eczema who have tried using topical steroids or topical immunomodulators.
Robert Dellavalle, professor of dermatology with the University of Colorado, told Inside Science that CBD products are growing in popularity, but the results are not being collected as properly as they could be.
“I believe it’s a wide-open horizon with tremendous potential that needs to be investigated, but there are a number of regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome and that’s where we are,” he said.
A medical study from the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus shows the anti-inflammatory sensibilities of cannabinoids are the main reason why cannabis may be potent in combating skin diseases.
“And while this research is still relatively formative, the results achieved so far clearly indicate its value and the promising potential of cannabis as effective medicine,” Tilray states.
Dave Berg, chief technology officer for software company Strainprint, told the Investing News Network the lack of sophisticated research has impacted the development of novel therapies for patients using cannabis.
“It’s been very difficult for people to study cannabis in a clinical way, but there’s been a ton observational data … There’s no really strong observational data set that allows us to make proper decisions,” Berg said.
In an effort to increase the research options available for cannabis, the Canadian federal government announced in 2018 that it would spend C$10 million over five years in order to assess the impact of cannabis use on the mental health of Canadians.
The government also promised C$10 million to the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction for research purposes.
CBD skincare products getting traction
Amid developments geared at solving specific skin issues, more general CBD skincare products are also gaining popularity among many consumers.
For example, the introduction of cosmetics with cannabis elements, supported by Canadian licensed producers, is another upcoming element for the skin treatment segment of consumers. While not medical, this avenue does offer more options in terms of cannabis uses.
The endorsement from consumers for CBD ointments and other topicals for skincare has been documented with multiple products launched in the fractured US cannabis market.
One downside of the growth in these products is that it has led companies to make more and more claims about how these items can help with skin conditions. One study from the Journal of the American Medical Association warns that CBD products are often mislabeled online.
Takeaway on cannabis and skin cancer
In order for skin cancer patients to see the potential benefits from treatment with medical cannabis, much still has to change in Canada and abroad.
As the medical and recreational sections of the cannabis space continue drifting apart thanks to legalization efforts, the medical space should get more time to properly research and investigate the drug’s applications.
The early position CBD has gained in terms of skin maintenance and treatment could lead to further research on its impact on more serious diseases.
What’s more, GW Pharmaceuticals’ success, along with increased awareness of the medical benefits of cannabis, is moving the needle on research efforts geared at finding out how capable the drug will be in the medical space.