Anticancer Effects of Cannabinoids
According to BREASTCANCER.ORG, about one in eight U.S. women (about 12.4%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Second only to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. Sadly, this disease is so much a part of our world, we can make projections about it; nearly 41,000 women in the U.S. are expected to die from breast cancer in 2018.
So, when someone who’s been affected by this disease—and who hasn’t—finds out that for decades now, cannabinoids in pre-clinical laboratory tests both in vitro and on animals (mice, rats, hamster, rabbits) have proven to either inhibit tumor growth or kill cancer cells (see it right here on the National Institute of Heath’s cannabis and cannabinoid webpage), what does that person think? What do they feel? Betrayal? Outrage? Confusion? Do they wonder why our government and certain special interest groups have refused to allow and fund cannabis research?
Of course they do.
Here’s why all of those sentiments are appropriate … for breast cancer patients, loved ones who have lost them, and the doctors who have drained themselves trying to treat them.
Cannabinoids Are an Effective Palliative Medicine
Both BREASTCANCER.ORG and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have web pages regarding the palliative effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, as do many other reputable organizations and authorities. Cannabinoids are known to treat the following symptoms caused by the diagnosis and treatment of cancer:
A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine substantiates the health benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids to treat cancer symptoms and recommends further action to expand and improve on their benefits.
It’s important to point out that several of the websites remind readers that cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. However, if the patient is using industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids from a federal agricultural pilot program, they are protected by the 2018 Omnibus Bill, which allows for the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.
Evidence of Anticancer Effects of Cannabinoids
While they are extremely effective at managing symptoms for cancer patients, there is evidence that cannabinoids can inhibit cancer, and possibly prevent or cure it. There is also anecdotal evidence that cannabis has stopped patients’ terminal cancer. So, why are human trials not being funded and carried out right now? There are some currently ongoing in other countries like Israel, but results have yet to be published.
The effects of cannabinoids on breast cancer, specifically, has had positive results, both in vitro and in lab animals. Human trials for cytotoxic drugs have been ongoing and carried out for years, and yet human trials for cannabinoids, a natural drug with very low side effects, and one that so many humans already ingest regularly, can’t get underway? The disparity is perplexing, frustrating, and can be for no other reason than a political one carried out by special interest groups.
Here are some of the recent studies that have been published about the anticancer effects of cannabinoids on breast cancer:
- In a 2006 study, researchers observed that anandamide, a naturally occurring endocannabinoid, could slow breast cancer progression. They ultimately proposed “that CB1 receptor agonists inhibit tumor cell invasion and metastasis by modulating FAK phosphorylation, and that CB1 receptor activation might represent a novel therapeutic strategy to slow down the growth of breast carcinoma and to inhibit its metastatic diffusion in vivo.”
- Another study in 2006 found that cannabidiol (CBD) inhibited the growth of human MDA-MB-231 breast carcinoma when injected into mice. The study noted that the anticancer effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were already established, but because of the psychoactive effects of THC, the goal of this study was to discover anticancer activity through non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids. Cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC) also had anticancer effects, but with less potency than CBD.
- In 2007, another study showed that CBD has other powerful ways of fighting cancer. The research found that it blocks expression of the Id-1 gene, which helps breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion. Researchers concluded that “CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness.”
- In 2010, a study at a Complutense University in Spain, found that THC greatly reduced tumor growth in animals. Remarkably, almost half of the control animals developed four or more tumors, while none of the THC-treated animals did. This was due to THC’s ability to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in breast cancer cells. Additionally, the cannabinoid inhibited the growth of blood vessels to tumors and impaired proliferation.
- A study following a year later in 2011, found that CBD could induce apoptosis in both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells. Distinct form THC, which prompts anticancer effects primarily through cannabinoid receptor activation, CBD worked independently of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Researchers use these lab results as evidence to bolster their arguments for further study of cannabinoids and their relation to cancer biology. How many times, in how many different ways, are cannabinoids going to have kill tumors and program cancer cells to die in mice and rats before we go forward and allow doctors to treat patients in human trials with cannabinoids?
Cancer is serious, and when a patient is signing off on the chemo that could save them, they often have pages of side effects ranging from likely and not so serious, to unlikely but life-threatening. Some of the side effects of chemo are life-threatening. But that has been an acceptable trade-off for a long time when treating life-threatening cancer. There are no overdose cases of marijuana, and the side effects are minimal compared to chemo, radiation and most other pharmaceuticals.
It is time for legislators and administrators to allow scientists, doctors—and patients that are willing—to inform the decisions regarding the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for cancer. Patients are allowed to sign papers to allow cytotoxic drugs to be injected into their veins, with or without human trials.
There is so much evidence pointing at cannabinoids as an effective solution to ending cancer. But there is no factual evidence to give any reason not to pursue that cause.
What are we waiting for?
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“Medical Marijuana.” Breastcancer.org. Web. Accessed 13 October 2018. https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/medical-marijuana
“Here’s what research says about breast cancer and cannabis.” Mycannx. 19 October 2018. Web. Accessed 12 October 2018. https://www.mycannx.com/new-blog/2017/10/19/heres-what-research-says-about-breast-cancer-and-cannabis