This section is pulled directly from Maida and Daeninck’s 2016 review “A User’s Guide to Cannabinoid Therapies in Oncology”.
The data supporting cannabis and cannabinoid use in appetite stimulation is less conclusive than it is in pain or nausea. When used in cancer patients with cachexia, cannabinoids appear to be only modestly effective. A study from the North Central Cancer Trial Group compared the use of an oral cannabinoid (dronabinol) with oral megestrol acetate and with the two drugs together. Final results did not show any statistical improvement in weight with dronabinol, either alone or in combination 1. A Swiss-led study using cannabis extract in cancer patients also did not show bene t in terms of appetite or weight gain, and the trial was closed early after a mandated review 2. A small Canadian study using oral dronabinol in advanced cancer patients demonstrated improved sense of taste and subsequent increased protein consumption. That change did not translate to weight gain, but patients did express improvement in quality of life measurements 3,4.
More promising results were seen in studies of the non-cancer population. A study of response to smoked cannabis, dronabinol, or placebo in patients with aids demonstrated that the patients using smoked cannabis experienced the greatest weight gain (3.51 kg vs. 3.18 kg vs. 1.5 kg respectively) 5. An earlier study in patients with dementia treated with either dronabinol or placebo documented an increase in appetite, increased weight gain, and modulated aggressive behavior 4,6.
- Jatoi, A. et al. Dronabinol versus megestrol acetate versus combination therapy for cancer-associated anorexia: a North Central Cancer Treatment Group study. J. Clin. Oncol. 20, 567–573 (2002).
- Strasser, F. et al. Comparison of orally administered cannabis extract and delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol in treating patients with cancer-related anorexia-cachexia syndrome: A multicenter, phase III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial from the Cannab. J. Clin. Oncol. 24, 3394–3400 (2006).
- Brisbois, T. D. et al. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol may palliate altered chemosensory perception in cancer patients: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial. Ann. Oncol. 22, 2086–2093 (2011).
- Maida, V. & Daeninck, P. J. A user’s guide to cannabinoid therapies in oncology. Curr Oncol 23, 398–406 (2016).
- Haney, M. et al. Dronabinol and marijuana in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. Caloric intake, mood, and sleep. J. Acquir. Immune Defic. Syndr. 45, 545–554 (2007).
- Volicer, L., Stelly, M., Morris, J., McLaughlin, J. & Volicer, B. J. Effects of dronabinol on anorexia and disturbed behavior in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Int. J. Geriatr. Psychiatry 12, 913–9 (1997).