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Neuroblastoma and Medical Cannabis Treatment


Neuroblastoma is a form of cancer most associated with children, with 90% of cases diagnosed in children under the age of 5 according to the American Cancer Society. The rare condition is often inherited and is caused by a specific type of nerve cell, called a neuroblast, having a mutation that leads to abnormal growth, reports St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Symptoms of pediatric neuroblastoma include a painful mass on the neck, feelings of agitation, stomach pain, decreased appetite, weight loss, and weak legs. 

As with any severe and rare cancer, surgery and chemotherapy are often initial treatments, but medical cannabis also proves to be beneficial. A 2016 Current Oncology study tested the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) on neuroblastoma cells in culture, showing how its properties helped cancer. “Our results demonstrate the anti-tumourigenic action of CBD on NBL cells,” reports the medical journal. 

“Because CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid that appears to be devoid of side effects, our results support its exploitation as an effective anticancer drug in the management of NBL.”

Neuroblastoma Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

The often-inherited cancer type affecting children gets worse as they age. “Infants have a better chance than older children of remaining free of neuroblastoma after treatment,” according to St. Jude’s, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for children only.  

St. Jude’s is creating a new antibody against neuroblastoma cells to destroy all traces of this disease while treating children with surgery and chemotherapy. Other forms of treatment include radiation therapy and stem cell transplants, also known as bone marrow transplants.  

Leveraging Cannabinoids for Easing the Symptoms of Neuroblastoma

The U.S. National Cancer Institute confirms that medical cannabis is a highly effective treatment, describing in detail how the plant properties can prevent tumors like neuroblastoma. “Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their non-transformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death,” according to the institute.

CBD also helped “exert a chemopreventive effect in a mouse model of colon cancer,” adds the U.S. Cancer Institute. Along with prevention, CBD has shown to alleviate nausea from chemotherapy. The institute reports, “animal studies have previously demonstrated that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids have a stimulatory effect on appetite and increase food intake.” 

That is why medical cannabis is used for eating disorders, including anorexia. It is also prescribed for cachexia, also called the wasting syndrome.

Newsweek asked the question “Cancer and Kids: Is Marijuana the Answer?” in 2017, reporting the story of Landon Riddle, a young boy who had to relocate to Colorado to use medical cannabis, becoming one of the first children to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation for his leukemia. Landon’s mother Sierra almost lost custody of her child fighting officials who would later find her son healed from cancer due to THC and CBD. 

“Results from blood tests, a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap proved Landon no longer had leukemia, not even the microscopic kind,” reports Newsweek.

The story of Landon and so many other children, who are prescribed medical cannabis for cancer symptoms, show that cannabinoids could possibly treat and calm cancer. 

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Data Last Updated 12/20/2022

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