Can CBD Help Treat Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer where the three most common types of receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth– estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene– are not present on these tumors. This makes TNBC difficult to treat because hormonal or immunotherapies typically target the tumor through these receptors. Because of this, standard chemotherapy drugs including doxorubicin are the first choice of treatment for TNBC, although drug resistance, poor response rates and toxicity are common.

 Transient receptor potential (TRP) proteins play an important role in pain and temperature sensation, and they may also control the growth and spread of tumors. One member of the TRP family, transient receptor potential vanilloid type 2 (TRPV2), can be activated by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol (CBD). Looking for better therapeutic options for TNBC, investigators from Ohio State University were interested to determine whether there were differences in TRPV2 levels in TNBC tumors and normal breast tissues, and whether by activating TRPV2 with CBD, it could enhance the tumor killing capacity of chemotherapeutic drugs in animals.

 What they found:

  • In patients with TNBC or estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer, those whose tumors had high versus low levels of TRPV2 lived longer with no relapse, especially if they were treated with chemotherapeutic drugs such as doxorubicin.

  • CBD enhanced the tumor killing action of doxorubicin in TNBC cells. TNBC tumors were smaller and underwent more apoptosis (cell death) in mice treated with CBD plus doxorubicin compared to those treated with CBD or doxorubicin alone.

 While this study is preliminary and requires further clinical investigation, it highlights the potential for CBD to enhance the action of chemotherapeutic drugs in treating TNBC.  It also adds to the growing body of scientific literature supporting the possible inclusion of CBD and other cannabinoids as part of the therapeutic arsenal to combat a variety of cancers. 


TRPV2 is a novel biomarker and therapeutic target in triple negative breast cancer Oncotarget. 2016;9(71):33459-33470.