Cannabis Triggers the Suicide of Cancer Cells


Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic,1 and is now legal in 30 U.S. states,2,3 the majority of which allow limited use of medical marijuana under certain medical circumstances. The medicinal qualities of marijuana are primarily due to high amounts (about 10 to 20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes and flavonoids.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel “stoned,” but it too has valuable medical benefits, so depending on your problem, you may want higher or lower levels of THC. Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.

There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates these cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabis Has Long History of Use for Pain, Seizures and More

The U.S. government, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), actually holds a patent on CBD as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant — an ironic and paradoxical situation considering the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has classified cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which by definition has no accepted medical use.

This federal classification also makes it very difficult, time consuming and expensive to study the health effects of marijuana. Labs have to jump through a lot of legal hoops before being granted permission to study Schedule 1 drugs. Despite such difficulties, a number of studies have found a wide range of uses for the herb. For example, The Journal of Pain,4 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.

Cannabis also has been used for over 80 years for drug-resistant seizure disorders. In January 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy statement on marijuana,5 acknowledging that cannabinoids “may currently be an option for … children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,6 which also has information relating to the medicinal aspects of marijuana, preclinical and clinical trials are also underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation, substance use disorders and mental disorders.

CBD oil has also been shown7 to protect the brain of stroke patients and those with Parkinson’s. It may also slow neurodegeneration caused by alcohol abuse.

Cannabis Shows Promise as Anticancer Agent

Doctors working with medical cannabis are also using it to treat cancer-related side effects, and evidence suggests the herb may even have antitumor effects all on its own, with dozens of studies pointing to marijuana’s effectiveness against many different types of cancer, including brain cancer, breast, prostate, lung, thyroid, colon and pituitary cancer, melanoma and leukemia.

It fights cancer via at least two mechanisms that make it difficult for a cancer to grow and spread: It’s proapoptotic (meaning it triggers apoptosis or cellular suicide of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched) and antiangiogenic (meaning it cuts off a tumor’s blood supply). As recently reported by Scientific American:8

“… while the available data are limited, research that has been conducted around antitumor effects of cannabinoids so far shows great promise. The International Journal of Oncology published a study9 last year, for example, indicating that cannabinoids successfully kill cancer cells, and the benefits increase when combined with chemotherapy.

An early preclinical study10 we recently conducted also found that cancer cells derived from patient blood samples were differentially sensitive to the two main active compounds in cannabis — tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).

A number of other laboratory and animal studies have been conducted in recent years on colon, breast and brain cancers.11They indicate that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by blocking cell growth, causing cell death and blocking the development of blood vessels that tumors require to grow.”

CBD and THC Combo Improve Anticancer Drug Effectiveness

According to the International Journal of Oncology study mentioned, phytocannabinoids ” possess anticancer activity when used alone, and a number have also been shown to combine favorably with each other in vitro in leukemia cells to generate improved activity.” The best results were obtained when the cannabinoids were paired with the leukemia drugs cytarabine and vincristine.

“Results show a number of cannabinoids could be paired together to generate an effect superior to that achieved if the components were used individually,” the researchers write, noting that CBD and THC together appeared to be more effective than either of them in isolation.

They also found that the sequence of administration mattered a great deal. When cannabinoids were administered after chemotherapy, it induced greater apoptosis or programmed cell death. When administered before, the opposite effect was achieved. According to the authors:

“Our results suggest that when certain cannabinoids are paired together, the resulting product can be combined synergistically with common anti-leukemia drugs allowing the dose of the cytotoxic agents to be dramatically reduced yet still remain efficacious. Nevertheless, the sequence of drug administration is crucial to the success of these triple combinations and should be considered when planning such treatments.”

Hemp CBD Shows Promise Against Ovarian Cancer

Another recent study suggests CBD from hemp may be helpful against ovarian cancer. Hemp and marijuana plants are in the same family but differ in their THC content. While marijuana plants contain varying amounts of THC, hemp contains very little or none of this psychoactive ingredient. According to a report in Medical News Today,12 Sullivan University College of Pharmacy in Louisville, Kentucky, is “a hotbed of research into hemp’s potential ability to fight cancer.”

Two of its laboratory researchers recently presented findings from two of its studies at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference in San Diego. In the first,13 a strain called Kentucky hemp was found to reduce the ability of ovarian cancer cells to migrate, suggesting it could eventually be used to help prevent ovarian cancer metastasis.

The second study14 found Kentucky hemp reduced secretion of interleukin IL-1 beta in ovarian cancer cells, thereby lowering inflammation associated with cancer progression. What’s more, the researchers found Kentucky hemp “slows ovarian cancer comparable to, or even better than, the current ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin.” The team is now planning additional studies using mice, with the hope of eventually graduating into human trials.

Cannabis Versus Opioids

As mentioned, cannabis has well-proven analgesic properties, and evidence suggests it can be very helpful for those struggling with opioid addiction as well, easing withdrawal symptoms. In one recent study,15,16,17 138 seniors (ages 61 to 70) with osteoarthritis, stenosis or chronic hip or knee pain were prescribed medical marijuana to assess the effectiveness of the herb against pain, and whether it would have any impact on opioid use.

Eighteen percent of the patients moderately decreased their use of other pain killers; 20 percent significantly reduced opioid use and 27 percent stopped using opioids altogether. In all, 91 percent said they would recommend cannabis to others. Forty-five percent of the patients in this study used vaporized oil, 28 percent used pills and 17 percent used marijuana-laced oil topically. Twenty-one percent used cannabis once a day, 23 percent twice a day, and 39 percent used it more than twice daily.

The results were presented at the May 3 annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in Orlando, Florida. In an anonymous statement, one of the participants wrote, “My quality of life has increased considerably since starting medical marijuana. I was on opiates for 15 years, and six months on marijuana, [I’m] off both completely.”

Coauthor Dr. Diana Martins-Welch, a physician in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine, Department of Medicine at Northwell Health, also noted she’s been able to get patients off opioids using medical marijuana.

Cannabis Legalization Has Led to Significant Decrease in Opioid Overdose Deaths

Another major benefit of cannabis is the fact that there’s no risk of overdose or death. In fact, research from the Rand Corporation shows a 20 percent decline in opioid overdose deaths in states that had legalized medical marijuana, suggesting legalizing medical marijuana nationwide could save up to 10,000 lives a year. Together, these benefits make it a lead contender in the fight against rampant opioid abuse and escalating overdose deaths.18

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently published an open letter to U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions, urging Sessions to change his stance on cannabis to help rein in the opioid epidemic. “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsymultiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works … It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally,” Gupta writes, adding:

“[P]erhaps most important, the compounds found in cannabis can heal the diseased addict’s brain, helping them break the cycle of addiction. There is no other known substance that can accomplish all this. If we had to … design a medicine to help lead us out of the opioid epidemic, it would likely look very much like cannabis.”

Cannabis Eases Depression, Anxiety and Stress

Other recent research19 shows cannabis can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, depression and high stress are not recognized as a qualifying condition for a medical cannabis card in most states that have legalized the herb for medical use. The reason for this is largely due to lack of scientific support, Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D., author of the study, says.

Read more at LewRockwell

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