The delta-8 form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is an interesting cannabinoid with a lot to offer. Like many of its fellow cannabinoids, researchers have been looking into the uses and potential healing properties of delta-8-THC for years.
One area of treatment that has been explored in some depth is the potential uses of D8 in cancer therapy. Cancer treatment is long, arduous, and often comes with unpleasant side effects. It’s no surprise that researchers continue to look for new ways of treating this disease.
Continue reading to find out the current state of the research on cancer and delta-8.
Scientists have long been interested in the potential health benefits that cannabis can offer — though its status as a federally-illegal substance has made research and use difficult. But, here’s what we can tell you:
To better understand why cannabis for cancer intrigues medical researchers and clinicians, let's look at how cannabinoids work. It starts with the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids found throughout your body. Regulating many different biosystems, the ECS is there to help your body achieve homeostasis.
For a deep dive into the endocannabinoid system, be sure to read our guide: What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
Cannabinoids can interact with your body's ECS to produce different effects. The exact role of the ECS in cancer has not yet been fully determined by scientists. But there's evidence to suggest that the ECS regulates tumor generation and progression.(2)
And some studies suggest that when cannabinoids activate the receptors in the ECS, it can lead to anti-tumor effects.(3) Indeed, animal studies have shown that cannabinoids can decrease tumor growth.(4)
The research on targeting the ECS and how cannabinoids can play a role in fighting cancer continues.
D8 is found in small quantities in both the hemp and marijuana strains of cannabis. Why are researchers so interested in this somewhat obscure compound?
Delta-8 is like THC — but evolved into a chiller, more relaxed version of its past self. D8’s earned this rep because it’s known to have a milder psychoactive effect than THC. Plus it's less anxiety-inducing than D9 can be.
Given its dialed-down psychotropic qualities, but similar benefits to THC, delta-8 has gotten some interest from cancer researchers. The idea that the therapeutic aspects could be harnessed without some of the downsides of delta-9-THC is attractive to many.
Current cannabis laws in the US have severely hampered research into the plant's curative abilities.
Most of the cancer and cannabis research has centered around THC (the delta-9 variety), though delta-8 has gotten some attention across the years as well.
The few studies that have been done so far show that delta-8 may have future therapeutic uses. Let’s turn to some of this research to learn more about D8's potential role in cancer treatment.
A study from 1975 looked at several cannabinoids and their effects on tumor growth in mice.
The researchers found that the mice who were treated for 20 days with D8 saw reductions in tumor size, as well as slower tumor growth.(5) The D8-treated mice also lived longer.
And, as of 2021, the NIH’s National Cancer Institute reaffirms the finding that delta-8 can inhibit the proliferation of certain cancer cells.(6)
A 1995 study looked at a group of children aged 3-13 who had various forms of blood cancer and were going through cancer treatment — which frequently causes nausea and vomiting.
Researchers gave study participants delta-8-THC oil two hours before cancer treatments. The researchers then continued the delta-8 treatment every 6 hours for 24 hours.
The study demonstrated the potential nausea-fighting qualities of D8.(7) Researchers found that the delta-8-THC oil completely prevented vomiting. Better still — no significant side effects were noticed.
More recent clinical trials with delta-8-THC are limited. That said, one from 2005 aimed to compare the use of delta-8-THC and a known anti-nausea drug called Ondansetron.(8) Researchers wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of D8 versus the anti-nausea drug in preventing nausea and vomiting.
Unfortunately, the study stopped early, so no results were posted. But, hopefully, this won’t be the last study to pit delta-8 against conventional cancer drugs.
Existing research suggests that D8 may offer tons of health benefits — without the potentially-unwanted psychoactive punch that delta-9-THC can have.
Chemotherapy is notorious for side effects like nausea and vomiting. Some studies, focused specifically on delta-8 and cancer, indicate that delta-8-THC is an effective nausea reducer and has antitumor qualities for patients undergoing cancer treatments. Currently, though, there are no FDA-approved cancer treatments that leverage D8.
Today’s laws inhibit the study and use of D8-based therapies. But the regulatory landscape for cannabis is evolving. So, it’s possible that, perhaps, one day delta-8-THC will join the fight against cancer.
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