Crossing the Line: Care of a Pediatric Patient with Intractable Seizures and Severe Neuropathic Pain in Absence of Access to Medical Marijuana
A recent case report discussing a six-year-old patient suffering from a seizure disorder has exposed the difficulty is receiving treatment across state lines. The patient was prescribed medical marijuana that alleviated the severity and duration of her seizures but was weaned off of that medication when traveling to Nebraska for a therapeutic surgery, due to the legal status in the state. This case study exposes the difficulty of treating patients across the country due to the legal variability of cannabis across states.
Author’s summary reflections:
“The current state-specific approach to medical marijuana notably burdens patients, families, and health care systems with a fragmented approach to symptom management based on local context. The stigmatization or legal implications of medical marijuana in certain settings may lead well-meaning providers to avoid asking about use or to struggle with appropriate response. Provider response to parents reporting medical marijuana use in Schedule I settings notably varies from direct inquiry, feigned ignorance, or informed ignoring. Ideally, providers would compassionately and competently inquire about pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical interventions (to include medical marijuana use) as part of comprehensive palliative care symptom assessments.”
Constitutive Activity of the Cannabinoid CB1 Receptor Regulates the Function of Co-expressed Mu Opioid Receptors
Cannabinoid receptors have been found to regulate the function of co-expressed mu-opioid receptors. Researchers have found data that indicates the constitutive activity within the cannabinoid system reduced the capacity of expressed mu-opioid receptor functions. This research brings to light the possible benefits of modulating opioid consumption with cannabis-based medicines.
Dr Caplan Discussion Points:
One of the interesting discussion points in this paper is a close look at the effects of the CB1 receptor and its capacity to reduce the function of some mu-opioid receptors, through a mechanism different than naloxone. This suggests some appropriate optimism for cannabinoid-based tools in the battle against the worldwide opioid epidemic.
“Pancreatic cancer is particularly refractory to modern therapies, with a 5-year survival rate for patients at a dismal 8%. One of the significant barriers to effective treatment is the immunosuppressive pancreatic tumor microenvironment and development of resistance to treatment. New treatment options to increase both the survival and quality of life of patients are urgently needed. This study reports on a new non-cannabinoid, non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis, termed FBL-03G, with the potential to treat pancreatic cancer. In vitro results show major increase in apoptosis and consequential decrease in survival for two pancreatic cancer models- Panc-02 and KPC pancreatic cancer cells treated with varying concentrations of FBL-03G and radiotherapy. Meanwhile, in vivo results demonstrate therapeutic efficacy in delaying both local and metastatic tumor progression in animal models with pancreatic cancer when using FBL-03G sustainably delivered from smart radiotherapy biomaterials. Repeated experiments also showed significant (P < 0.0001) increase in survival for animals with pancreatic cancer compared to control cohorts. The findings demonstrate the potential for this new cannabis derivative in the treatment of both localized and advanced pancreatic cancer, providing impetus for further studies toward clinical translation.
“From the results of this study, the key findings include, observation that a non-cannabinoid derivative of cannabis can enhance radiotherapy treatment outcomes in-vitro and in-vivo as highlighted in Figures 2, 4. Secondly, the sustained delivery of the cannabis derivative FBL-03G from smart radiotherapy biomaterials (SRBs) results in tumor growth inhibition of both locally treated and distant untreated tumors, with and without radiotherapy. The use of smart radiotherapy biomaterials (SRBs) (8, 23) was recently proposed as a novel approach to deliver cannabinoids, allowing for prolonged exposure of tumor cells to these cannabis derivatives, which is expected to be more effective (10). The FBL-03G payload used in this study is a flavonoid non- cannabinoid derivative of cannabis, and the potential to inhibit both local and metastatic tumor progression is remarkable, especially for pancreatic cancer, with a dismal 5-year survival rate of 8% (1).”
“While the results indicate that sustained exposure of tumor cells to FBL-03G can boost both local and metastatic tumor cell kill, the mechanism of such action needs to be further investigated. One hypothesis is that, FBL-03G can serve as an immunotherapy agent, inhibiting growth of locally treated and untreated tumors, representing metastasis. Metastasis accounts for most of all cancer-associated suffering and death, and questionably presents the most daunting challenge in cancer management. Henceforth, the observed significant increase in survival is promising, especially for pancreatic cancer which is often recalcitrant to treatments. Another hypothesis is that sustained delivery allows FBL-03G to reach the untreated tumor over a prolonged period as well. Either way, the FBL-03G results reveal a new potential non-cannabinoid cannabis derivative with major potential for consideration in further investigations in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, where new therapy options are urgently needed.”
Dr Caplan’s Take:
This article is one in a growing collection of impressive data that highlights a critical area of Medicine that has hidden from the scientific community for decades. The goal of the review is NOT to hail praise on cannabis as a panacea, nor even a sole treatment option, for pancreatic cancer. Rather, it highlights that it seems to be working effectively, both in living tumor cells in the lab and in animal models with live tumor cells. For a devastating illness that currently carries a grim prognosis, the proposition here is to learn more.
The milestones between pioneering scientific study and effective medication are many and there is much work to be done. Studies must be reviewed, criticized, replicated, integrated, before pioneering products can be developed, produced, tested, scaled, brought to market, marketed, sold, and consumed. The process is long, but at least there is a seed of hope at the beginning!
Starting this fall, the University of Maryland will offer a masters degree in medical cannabis. The university’s School of Pharmacy developed the Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics Master of Science program to train medical students to treat medical marijuana patients and conduct research on cannabis.
Benjamin Caplan, MDMasters Degree in Medical Cannabis
Forget CBD; flavonoids found in cannabis have been found to be 30 times more effective painkillers than aspirin, targeting inflammation at the source and making them great alternatives for pain killers. If produced on a larger scale, they could help get away from the opioid crisis.