Leukemia is a group of cancers which begins in the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.

  • What is Leukemia?
  • Leukemia & cannabinoids
  • Text references, literature discussion
    & clinical trials

What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a group of cancers that begins in the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.1 The lymphatic system is a network of tissues, vessels, and organs with important functions to keep the body healthy by shielding it from diseases caused by foreign intruders, maintaining body fluid levels, transporting, and removing waste products, among others.2

White blood cells play an important role in fighting infections. However, white blood cells produced by the bone marrow become abnormal in people suffering from leukemia which may cause them to divide too fast, crowding normal cells.1

As leukemia is a group of cancers, the symptoms can vary depending on the type of leukemia. However, the following main symptoms are:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes e.g. enlarged liver or spleen
  • Frequent severe infections
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Pain or tenderness in bones
  • Fever and chills
  • Easily bruising and bleeding
  • Excessive sweating (especially at night)

As other types of cancer, leukemia involves the growth of abnormal cells which contain mutations leading to uncontrollable cell division and growth. Similarly, it can spread and damage/destroy normal tissue.
Up to this date, it is not clear what is the exact cause of leukemia. It is suggested that a combination of genetic and environmental factors can play a role in the development of this type of cancer.
In general, it is believed that leukemia can occur when some white blood cells acquire mutations in their DNA, or due to other not-yet-identified changes in the cells.1

Factors that can increase the risk of developing leukemia are:

  • Previous cancer treatment
    This can include certain types of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Genetic disorders
    This can include Down Syndrome
  • Certain chemical exposure
  • Smoking
  • Family history of leukemia
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Endocannabinoids

  • CBD
  • THC

  • CB1
  • CB2
  • Terpenes
  • Strains
  • Enzymes
  • Metabolites
  • Eugenol


Synthesizing & Degrading Enzymes


The connection between Leukemia
& cannabinoids

Leukemia Blood Differences

Preclinical data suggest that the cannabinoids THC and CBD may be therapeutic in the treatment of leukemia.3
For example in animal models and in culture, cannabinoids have been observed to suppress tumor cell growth through modulation of key cell-signaling pathways.4

Please refer to the general cancer entry for more information.

Note: If you have any further information relevant to the connection between Leukemia and cannabinoids, or find any of the information inaccurate, outdated or incomplete please contact us here.

Text references, literature discussion
& clinical trials

  • Text references
  • Literature discussion
  • Clinical trials

Functional CB1 and CB2 receptors are expressed by leukemia cells (Moaddel et al., 2011) with THC being the most studied cannabinoid in leukemia treatment.

Several studies showed that THC exerts cytotoxic effects triggered by apoptosis in leukemia cells (Herrera et al., 2005; Jia et al., 2006; Liu et al., 2008).

Intrinsic pathways involving ceramide-dependent mitochondrial stimulation may mediate this apoptosis (Herrera et al., 2006; Lombard et al., 2005).

Furthermore, other CB1/2 agonists were found to suppress the growth and proliferation of leukemia cells (Gallotta et al., 2010; Yrjölä et al., 2015).

CBD, which has shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity, also can help induce activation of mast cells (Giudice et al., 2007).

Clinical trials

In a clinical case, it was shown that leukemia cells decreased when cannabis oil was used to treat a 14-year-old patient suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (positive for the Philadelphia chromosome mutation) (Singh and Bali, 2013).


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