A middle-age man in Canada with oral cancer found that medical cannabis oil may have helped to slightly reduce the size of a wound that his cancer caused on his cheek, according to a new report of his case.
The cannabis oil treatment also reduced the man's pain after the cancer created a hole in his right cheek, according to the report published in the January issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Studies have suggested that marijuana may work to treat cancer patients' pain.
Much more research is needed to know whether medical cannabis oil may have a wound-healing effect. But the man's case "really validates what has been known for thousands of years about the utility of cannabinoids in so many different areas," said Dr. Vincent Maida, an associate professor in the Division of Palliative Care at the University of Toronto, who treated the man. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
"Ancient cultures used cannabis extracts on wounds," Maida said.
The 44-year-old man went to see Maida at a palliative-care clinic in Toronto in the spring of 2016 for the treatment of pain caused by a malignant wound in his right cheek. The man had been diagnosed with oral cancer three years earlier, and despite having the tumor surgically removed as well as undergoing radiation and chemotherapy for his condition, the cancer returned. The man had chosen, two years before his visit to Maida's clinic, to forgo any further treatments for his cancer, according to the report. (Palliative care generally involves only treatments to reduce pain.)
The man had tried taking opioid medications, but was still having severe pain in his cheek. In addition, he was experiencing side effects from those medicines, such as drowsiness and constipation, the man told Maida. He asked Maida to prescribe medical marijuana to treat his pain.
The doctor prescribed vaporized medical marijuana for the man, which the man then used for the next few months. The marijuana seemed to help alleviate the pain significantly, and allowed the man to reduce the doses of opioids he was taking. However, the wound in his cheek grew and the cancer eventually eroded through his cheek, creating a hole, which prevented the man from continuing to use vaporized marijuana.
The man then asked Maida for a prescription for medical cannabis oil, which he could apply directly to his wound. The man used the oil four times daily for about a month.
He found that his wound stopped growing, and shrank by a small amount, about 5 percent, over the next month. The man said he experienced pain relief starting about 10 to 15 minutes after he applied the oil to the wound, which lasted for about 2 hours after application.
However, about a month after the man started using the oil, he was admitted to a hospital because his overall condition had deteriorated. He died from cancer three weeks later, according to the report.
The new report showing that the cannabis oil seemed to work for treating the man's wound "is really interesting," said Dr. Anita Gupta, the vice chair of the Division of Pain Medicine at Drexel College of Medicine in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the report. [Mixing the Pot? 7 Ways Marijuana Interacts with Medicines]
So far, no actual studies have looked at using cannabis oil for wound treatment in people. One study, done on human intestine cells growing in lab dishes, suggested that cannabinoids may enhance the closure of wounds.
Though it is not clear why cannabis oil may have had a wound-healing effect in this case, one possible reason might be that the oil reduced inflammation, Gupta said.
However, she noted that more research is needed to examine whether cannabis oil may have any robust benefit in large numbers of patients with significant wounds.
Originally published on Live Science.