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Support Care Cancer. 2003 Mar;11(3):137-43. Epub 2002 Aug 21.

Established and potential therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in oncology.

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The Harry R Horvitz Center for Palliative Medicine, The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, Cleveland Clinic Foundation - M-76, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.


Cannabis occurs naturally in the dried flowering or fruiting tops of the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis is most often consumed by smoking marihuana. Cannabinoids are the active compounds extracted from cannabis. Recently, there has been renewed interest in cannabinoids for medicinal purposes. The two proven indications for the use of the synthetic cannabinoid (dronabinol) are chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS-related anorexia. Other possible effects that may prove beneficial in the oncology population include analgesia, antitumor effect, mood elevation, muscle relaxation, and relief of insomnia. Two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, have been detected. CB1 receptors are expressed mainly in the central and peripheral nervous system. CB2 receptors are found in certain nonneuronal tissues, particularly in the immune cells. Recent discovery of both the cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids has opened a new era in research on the pharmaceutical applications of cannabinoids. The use of cannabinoids should be continued in the areas indicated, and further studies are needed to evaluate other potential uses in clinical oncology.

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