Chemotherapy is very often an effective treatment for many different forms of cancer. As is common with many drugs, chemotherapy comes with unpleasant side effects that are dependent on cancer location, cancer type, drugs and doses, and the overall health of the patient. Chemotherapy affects active cancer cells, but it can also damage healthy, active cell that causes the side effects. There are different types of chemotherapy treatments that share common side effects, however, side effects can manifest differently in each patient. The chemotherapy drug doxorubicin is known to cause cardiac damage, and cannabis research has shown that cannabidiol (CBD), a major nonpsychoactive compound found in the plant Cannabis sativa suppress myocardial toxicity.
This chemotherapy drug is used to treat many different cancers and is administered intravenously. It is a form of chemotherapy drug known as an anthracycline, which is used to treat lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and breast cancer. It reduces or halts the growth of cancer cells, and it works in one way by blocking the enzyme topo isomerase 2 that is responsible for the division and growth of cancer cells. Some of the common side effects of doxorubicin includes tiredness, sore mouth, hair loss, skin changes, diarrhea, loss of appetite, skin changes, and even changes in the way the heart works, among others.
Heart damage caused by harmful chemical is characterized as cardiac toxicity or cardiotoxicity. Doxorubicin can harm the normal cells in and around the heart that can lead to cardiomyopathy-thickening, weakening, enlargement, or stiffening of the heart muscles; or myocarditis that is inflammation of the heart that can result in heart arrhythmias or heart failure. When the heart muscle lacks the necessary force to pump blood containing essential oxygen and nutrients throughout the body these conditions occur.
Study: Effects of CBD Treatment on Doxorubicin
A 2013 study published in the Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology investigated the potential protective benefits of cannabidiol against doxorubicin cardiotoxicity in a model with rats. The team of researchers from King Faisal University conducted a 4-week experiment in which the rats were treated with 2.5mg/kg of Doxorubicin every 48 hours for two weeks (total of 15 mg/kg), along with 5mg/kg of CBD every day lasting for 4 weeks.
To test CBD’s effect, the researchers evaluated the level of damage that doxorubicin caused to the heart by measuring the levels of creatine Kinase-MB, which is an enzyme generally employed in measuring heart damage. Additionally, the researchers measured troponin T levels in an effort to determine the level of damage that resulted from heart attacks.
According to the researchers, the results of the study demonstrated that CBD was effective at protecting the heart from doxorubicin as evident in a significant reduction in the levels of creatine kinase-MB and troponin T in the rats. Since assessing the levels of creatine kinase-MB and troponin T are two of the most common ways of determining heart damage, the decrease in both suggests that cannabidiol could have value as an inhibitor. The study showed that treating cardiac damage that stems from the harmful effects of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin with CBD is not so far-fetched. Cannabidiol (CBD) has been demonstrated in a number of studies as having the potential to help prevent or treat heart and cardiovascular diseases. The researchers contend that the “…results indicate that cannabidiol represents a potential protective agent against doxorubicin cardiac injury.”
While animal studies tend to leave more questions than answers as to how it would translate to human studies, the groundwork still offers valuable information that can lead to more discoveries. Although chemotherapy is an effective method of treating cancer, it is not without its downside. Depending on the drug used, doxorubicin for example, can be effective at reducing or halting the growth of cancer cells, but detrimental to the health of the patient’s heart. It can cause a number of problems from heart arrhythmias to heart failure. Early studies have suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) could counter the effects of doxorubicin on the heart by exerting a protective role as a barrier agent. Further research is needed to validate the findings of this early animal model, but this is a great start to finding a way to counter some of the negative effects of doxorubicin-related heart damage. Only time will tell where medical cannabis-related research will lead, CBD in particular, but the issue will continue to be an evolving one as interest in the subject remains.