Medicinal cannabis is a cannabis plant extract used to relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions.
Researchers led by Queen Mary University of London in the UK found that mice with pancreatic cancer treated with cannabinoid Cannabidiol (CBD) alongside chemotherapy survived almost three times longer than those treated with chemotherapy alone.
The study, published in the journal Oncogene, tested the impact of cannabinoid CBD on the use of the commonly used chemotherapy medication Gemcitabine as a treatment for pancreatic cancer in mice.
Pancreatic cancer is aggressive and has one of the lowest survival rate of all cancers, researchers said.
"This is a remarkable result. We found that mice with pancreatic cancer survived nearly three times longer if a constituent of medicinal cannabis was added to their chemotherapy treatment," said Marco Falasca, a professor at the Queen Mary University of London.
"Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics, which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials.
"If we can reproduce these effects in humans, cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately, compared to having to wait for authorities to approve a new drug," Falasca said.
The cannabinoid CBD does not cause psychoactive effects, as opposed to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the cannabinoid known to cause the psychoactive effects in cannabis.
As such, CBD is already cleared for use in the clinic, and does not face the same challenges as products including cannabis oil, which contain controlled substances such as THC, researchers said.
CBD is also known to improve the side effects of chemotherapy, including nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, meaning it could also improve the quality of life of patients undergoing chemotherapy, they said.