Although new drugs are being developed for cancer treatment, classical chemotherapeutic agents are still front-line therapies, despite their frequent association with severe side effects that can hamper their use. Cannabinoids may prevent or palliate some of these side effects. The aim of the present study is to review the basic research which has been conducted evaluating the effects of cannabinoid drugs in the treatment of three important side effects induced by classical chemotherapeutic agents: nausea and vomiting, neuropathic pain and cognitive impairment. Several published studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids are useful in preventing and reducing the nausea, vomits and neuropathy induced by different chemotherapy regimens, though other side effects can occur, such as a reduction of gastrointestinal motility, along with psychotropic effects when using centrally-acting cannabinoids. Thus, peripherally-acting cannabinoids and new pharmacological options are being investigated, such as allosteric or biased agonists. Additionally, due to the increase in the survival of cancer patients, there are emerging data that demonstrate an important cognitive deterioration due to chemotherapy, and because the cannabinoid drugs have a neuroprotective effect, they could be useful in preventing chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment (as demonstrated through studies in other neurological disorders), but this has not yet been tested. Thus, although cannabinoids seem a promising therapeutic approach in the treatment of different side effects induced by chemotherapeutic agents, future research will be necessary to find pharmacological options with a safer profile. Moreover, a new line of research awaits to be opened to elucidate their possible usefulness in preventing cognitive impairment.
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