Lankenau study tests if CBD can reduce nerve pain in cancer patients

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Peripheral neuropathy, which causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, is one of the most common side effects among widely used chemotherapies.

The pain can be long-lasting and disabling.

Dr. Marisa Weiss, director of breast radiation oncology at Lankenau Medical Center, is conducting a randomized study to see if hemp will help ease some of those symptoms.

The study tests if CBD, which comes from the hemp plant, could be used as a treatment. CBD has been successful in treating neuropathy from other causes, such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

“Anywhere from about 30% up to 60% of (cancer) patients experience this side effect,” Weiss said. 

Current therapeutic approaches to relieve the pain are only minimally effective. 

“They have pain and numbness, tingling in their hands and their feet, and they notice it most in their fingertips and in their feet. So it means that it’s hard for them to hold onto anything, like hold a pen and write things. It’s hard for them to wear shoes or anything that’s going to hold their feet and put any pressure around their foot.”

These symptoms may resolve quickly or last for long periods of time. 

“It’s a real problem,” Weiss continued, “because people suffer from the side effects, so it has a negative effect on the quality of life. But also, it’s a side effect that may limit the ability to complete chemotherapy.”

Half of the patients will take CBD three times a day for 12 weeks, and the other half will take placebos. They will undergo follow-up care for six months.