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Cannabis May Prevent This Major Side Effect of Chemotherapy

Israeli researchers found that those who used cannabis saw a drastic decrease.

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A new study from Israel has found that nerve damage, a common side effect in certain chemotherapy treatments, is significantly reduced in cancer patients who use cannabis. The peer-reviewed study found a 30 percent reduction in the number of patients experiencing nerve issues.

The extensive study involved 513 patients. About half of them used cannabis either before they started chemotherapy or started to use it after the treatments. Both groups saw a reduction in the amount of nerve damage they experienced, with those who used cannabis before the treatment started seeing the most considerable reduction.

The findings come after a Harvard University study found cannabis may help treat pancreatic cancer and another study that associated cannabis with slower growth of some types of cancerous cells.

RELATED: Science Continues to Confirm Cannabis Can Kick Cancer's Butt


Nerve damage is a side effect of using the anti-cancer drug oxaliplatin.

Medical researchers from Tel Aviv, Israel, led the study on the potential for treating nerve damage incurred during chemotherapy. Nerve damage is a side effect of oxaliplatin, an anti-cancer drug used in chemotherapy.

"Oxaliplatin-induced neurotoxicity is a profound adverse effect which, according to the results of our investigation, may be mitigated and prevented by cannabis treatment." researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology

The researchers noted no current "successful interventions" for treatment of this side effect, known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). About 70 percent of all patients treated with oxaliplatin experience these side effects. They can include tingling in the hands and feet, losing sensation, and, in more severe cases, an inability to feel fingers and toes.

"This can be very challenging for patients, and take months to subside," Dr. Ravit Geva of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, who worked on the study, told The Times of Israel

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Cannabis may provide help for chemotherapy patients who experienced nerve damage.

In the Israeli study, researchers analyzed what happened with 513 cancer patients who underwent treatment with oxaliplatin. Of those, 248 used cannabis and 265 served as a control group. About half of the 248 patients who used cannabis were "cannabis-first" patients who used cannabis before treatment started. The others were "oxaliplatin-first" patients who started cannabis use after treatment started. 

Only 25 percent of the cannabis-first patients experienced CIPN. Overall, only 40% of all cannabis users experienced CIPN. Both numbers are far less than the 70% of patients who typically underwent CIPN during chemotherapy.

Geva also pointed out that with a lower chance of nerve damage, patients who use cannabis could receive more potent treatment, leading to better outcomes. 

The Israeli researchers are already planning a randomized placebo-controlled trial of cannabis use with those who receive oxaliplatin chemotherapy to further investigate the potential use of cannabis as a neuroprotective.

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