CBD for Brain Tumors

CBD Shrinks Brain Tumor in Mouse Study

A new study in mice reveals that when inhaled, CBD was able to change a brain tumors environment and in turn, shrink the cancer.

Calvin Chan, Ph.D. January 24, 2022

In mice with glioblastoma, a type of highly aggressive brain tumor, inhaling CBD helped shrink the tumor over time by making it harder for tumor cells to survive.

The first-ever mouse study led by a research team at the Dental College of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia revealed that inhaled CBD can change a brain tumor’s surrounding environment. By making it less hospitable, CBD can cause the tumor to shrink over time.

Glioblastoma is a highly aggressive form of cancer that forms in the brain or the spinal cord.

“It’s probably one of the most aggressive cancers period. We are in desperate need of research and more treatments,” said neurosurgeon and study co-author Martin Rutkowski. “What we have right now is not working very well.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, early symptoms of this cancer often include memory loss, confusion, vision problems, and difficulty with balance, all of which can dramatically influence a person’s quality of life.

How is Glioblastoma Typically Treated?

Typical treatment involves surgery to remove the brain tumor, followed by additional radiation or chemotherapy.

“Surgery does not offer a cure but it does offer an important first step in maximizing quality of life and prognosis,” Rutkowsi said. Typically, the more tumor that can be removed by surgery, the better the chances of survival.

However, clinical research has indicated that long-term survivors of glioblastoma are rare. Even with optimal treatment, most patients do not survive longer than one year.

To study the disease, the research team developed mice with human glioblastoma brain tumors. These animals were then given daily doses of inhaled CBD or a placebo.

Over a span of seven days, the tumors in mice that inhaled CBD began to shrink.

“We saw a significant reduction in the size of the tumor and its microenvironment was different,” said immunologist and study co-author Babak Baban. A big part of that was because CBD was altering the tumor environment.

Tumors Can Alter the Immune System, But CBD May Help the Body Fight Back

The research team explained that the body’s immune system is usually quite adept at fighting off cancerous cells. However, when cancer cells accumulate and a tumor becomes established, it can alter the environment it’s growing in to help it thrive.

Part of this involves encouraging blood vessel growth nearby to bring in more nutrients to feed the tumor and triggering what researchers call, chronic inflammation.

While inflammation is typically needed to help wounds heal, an overactive inflammation response can make it harder for the body to repair the damage. This is seen in auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, where the immune system becomes confused and begins attacking your own body.

“It’s about immune balance,” Baban said.

The way CBD can help is by controlling inflammation and shifting that immune balance, making the environment less hospitable for the tumor.

CBD Alters the Tumor Environment, Making it Hard for it to Grow

In the mouse study, the research team found that CBD repressed the activity of several immune factors that are often co-opted by glioblastomas.

For one, CBD reduced apelin, an enzyme that tumors can use to trigger inflammation and additional blood vessel growth in the area. Blood vessels are needed to bring in oxygen and other nutrients the tumor needs to thrive. Without it, the tumor may begin to starve, making it more sensitive to cancer treatment.

CBD also helped increase the expression of CD103, a protein used by the body’s immune cells to recognize cancer. Usually, patients with immune cells that express CD103 have a better chance of survival.

CBD and the Brain

“It is a puzzle and that is why we need good immune regulators,” Baban said. “CBD is a very smart regulator.”


Not only did the inhaler method help the CBD reach the brain, but the research team explained that the simple delivery method can also make it easy for use by future patients.


The promising results from this first mouse study may help scientists open doors to new avenues of research, such as investigating how long these positive changes may last, whether CBD can prevent remission, and how might CBD complement other treatment options.

“Right now, we are excited that the tumor shrinks,” Baban said.


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Calvin Chan, Ph.D.

Calvin Chan is a researcher and medical writer from Edmonton, Canada. As a big science nerd, he loves reading and writing about everything science - from cannabis to dark matter and even alien life. Calvin has a PhD from the University of Alberta.