Can cannabis oil cure various forms of cancer? And if so, when will national health care systems start supplying cannabis oil to cancer patients as a first-line treatment, in preference to toxic chemotherapy?
This article will attempt to answer both of these questions. It will attempt to explain the science behind how cannabinoids fight cancer, and it will ask, “Where do we go from here?”
“THC is antimitogenic or antiproliferative (inhibits Cancer cell division), antiangiogenic (inhibits the growth of new? blood vessels in Cancers), proapototic (encourages old cell death before mutating then leading to Cancers) & antitumoral (counteracting or preventing the formation of malignant tumors; anticancer). Those appear to be the mechanisms that might account for these antitumoral effects of THC.”
– Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA
The Latest Study (November 2014): Cannabis vs Brain Cancer
As has been widely reported in recent weeks, Cannabis oil (in the form of pharmaceutical product Sativex) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of brain tumors. Researchers at the St. George’s University of London investigated whether radiation treatment would prove more effective with the addition of CBD and THC. The results were stark: THC and CBD not only worked to enhance the effectiveness of the radiation, but also appeared to shrink tumors when administered without the radiation.
“We’ve shown that cannabinoids could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults,” Dr. Wai Liu, co-author of the study said. “The results… could provide a way of breaking through glioma and saving more lives.”
Dr. Liu went on to assert that, “The benefits of the cannabis plant elements were known before but the drastic reduction of brain cancers if used with irradiation is something new and may well prove promising for patients who are in gravely serious situations with such cancers in the future.”
As Dr. Liu reminds us, this isn’t the first time cannabis has been shown to shrink brain tumors. It isn’t even the first time in a GW Pharmaceuticals’ funded research project.
In 2003 GW looked into the effects of cannabidiol on brain cancer. Results showed that: “CBD, administered s.c. to nude mice at the dose of 0.5 mg/mouse, significantly inhibited the growth of subcutaneously implanted U87 human glioma cells.” The study concluded that, “The nonpsychoactive CBD was able to produce a significant antitumor activity both in vitro and in vivo, thus suggesting a possible application of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.”
In 2015/16 GW Pharmaceuticals intend to begin human clinical trials into the effects of Sativex on brain tumors. Sativex’s Cannabis Oil is 1:1 THC to CBD, so below the optimal 4:1 THC to CBD recommended by real experts in the field: namely the unheralded caregivers already saving lives with the oil.
Presumably GW would rather use their existing product instead of spending many more millions developing a specific cancer product, but at least they’re pumping millions of dollars into research, and reinforcing the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based treatments. Governments around the world and/or philanthropists should have long since stepped up – I mean, even if you view cancer from a purely monetary perspective, how much would tax payers save by having a cancer cure you could grow in your back garden? And while GW seem to have screwed the pooch on Sativex for multiple sclerosis, by including way too much THC (50%!), they should still be commended for bringing research into the world that will persuade the medical profession that cannabis oil is a) safe, b) efficacious.
But beyond the antics of GW there is a much wider story unfolding. Brain cancer is not the only cancer for which cannabis oil can assist. I’ll run through some of the enormous library of research, and add some patient testimonials to give you a sense of which cancers have been shown to respond best to cannabinoids:
Leukemia and Cannabis Oil
In this 2004 scientific study researchers investigated whether THC could induce programmed cell death (also known as apoptosis) in leukemic cell lines. Findings showed that “THC is a potent inducer of apoptosis”. The study goes on to state that “It is important to emphasize that THC was exceptionally efficacious, inducing cell kill as early as 6 hours”.
In 2005 reseachers from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine also looked at how THC causes apoptosis in leukemic cells. The study concluded that, “The intrinsic pathway plays a more critical role in THC-induced apoptosis while the extrinsic pathway may facilitate apoptosis via cross-talk with the intrinsic pathway.”
In 2002 researchers published a study in Blood Journal titled “Targeting CB2 cannabinoid receptors as a novel therapy to treat malignant lymphoblastic disease”. The study asserted that “Culture of primary acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells with THC in vitro reduced cell viability and induced apoptosis. Together, the current data demonstrate that CB2 cannabinoid receptors expressed on malignancies of the immune system may serve as potential targets for the induction of apoptosis. Also, because CB2 agonists lack psychotropic effects, they may serve as novel anticancer agents to selectively target and kill tumors of immune origin.”
In 2003, The Hebrew University Medical Faculty looked into the effects of two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, CBD and CBD-DMH, on leukemia. According to the findings “Two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol-dimethylheptyl (CBD-DMH), induced apoptosis in a human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) HL-60 cell line.”
In 2006 another study was undertaken looking at how CBD affects leukemia. The University of South Carolina School of Medicine found that “Exposure of leukemia cells to cannabidiol led to cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2)-mediated reduction in cell viability and induction in apoptosis. Furthermore, cannabidiol treatment led to a significant decrease in tumor burden and an increase in apoptotic tumors in vivo.” The researchers concluded that “Together, the results from this study reveal that cannabidiol, acting through CB2 and regulation of Nox4 and p22phox expression, may be a novel and highly selective treatment for leukemia.”
Leukemia and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Prostate Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In 2005 the University of Wisconsin published a study titled “Cannabinoid Receptor as a Novel Target for the Treatment of Prostate Cancer”. Through the use of cannabinoids, programmed cell death was observed in prostate cancer cells. The study concluded that “cannabinoid receptor agonists could be developed as novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of prostate cancer.”
In 1999 Spanish researchers published a study titled “Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol induces apoptosis in human prostate PC-3 cells via a receptor-independent mechanism” which showed that THC caused apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. The study stated that “The apoptotic effect of THC described in this study might provide the basis for future therapeutic application of cannabinoids.”
Prostate Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Brain Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In 2005 Dr. Sean McAllister and the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute investigated the influence of cannabinoids on brain cancer. They discovered that THC decreases cancer cell proliferation and increases cancer cell death. Compared with a synthetic cannabinoid THC was shown to be more potent at inhibiting cancer cells and didn’t cause the same damage to healthy cells.
In 2006 researchers in Spain conducted the first human clinical trial into the effects of THC on brain cancer, “in which nine patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme were administered THC intratumoraly”. The purpose of the study was to test the safety profile of THC. The study deemed that, “Cannabinoid delivery was safe and could be achieved without overt psychoactive effects.” Cancer cell proliferation was slowed in the patients, while two of the patients saw their tumors shrink. The study concluded that, “The fair safety profile of THC, together with its possible antiproliferative action on tumour cells reported here and in other studies, may set the basis for future trials aimed at evaluating the potential antitumoral activity of cannabinoids.”
Sadly, that was 2006 and no further human clinical trials into brain cancer have yet begun.
Brain Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Lung Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In 2007 researchers at the Harvard Medical School looked at the effects of THC on lung cancer cells. Researchers found that, “There was significant inhibition of the subcutaneous tumor growth and lung metastasis of A549 cells in THC-treated animals as compared to vehicle-treated controls. Tumor samples from THC-treated animals revealed antiproliferative and antiangiogenic effects of THC.” The study concluded that “cannabinoids like THC should be explored as novel therapeutic molecules in controlling the growth and metastasis of certain lung cancers.”
In 2011 Ohio State University ran a study called “Cannabinoid Receptors, CB1 and CB2, as Novel Targets for Inhibition of Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Growth and Metastasis”. Synthetic cannabinoids were used, and it was discovered that, “Reduced proliferation and vascularization, along with increased apoptosis, were observed in tumors obtained from animals treated with JWH-133 and Win55,212-2.” The study concluded that in the treatment of lung cancer, “CB1 and CB2 could be used as novel therapeutic targets.”
Lung Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Breast Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In 1999 a study discovered that anandamide, one of the body’s own cannabinoids, inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation. The study concluded that “anandamide blocks human breast cancer cell proliferation through CB1-like receptor-mediated inhibition of endogenous prolactin action at the level of prolactin receptor.”
In 2009 Ohio State University researchers looked into the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on breast cancer, which found that “Mice treated with JWH-133 or WIN-55,212-2 showed a 40% to 50% reduction in tumor growth and a 65% to 80% reduction in lung metastasis.” The study concluded that, “These results indicate that CB1 and CB2 receptors could be used to develop novel therapeutic strategies against breast cancer growth and metastasis.”
In 2006 researchers in Madrid looked at how THC affects breast cancer cells. It was discovered that “Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), through activation of CB2 cannabinoid receptors, reduces human breast cancer cell proliferation by blocking the progression of the cell cycle and by inducing apoptosis.” It went on to state that “There was also an association between CB2 expression and other markers of prognostic and predictive value, such as estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and ERBB2/HER-2 oncogene. Importantly, no significant CB2 expression was detected in nontumor breast tissue. Taken together, these data might set the bases for a cannabinoid therapy for the management of breast cancer.”
To date, no cannabinoid therapy for treatment of breast cancer has begun.
Breast Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Liver Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In this 2006 study researchers looked at how the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors could be used to treat human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a form of liver cancer. It was concluded that “CB1 and CB2 have potential as prognostic indicators and suggest possible beneficial effects of cannabinoids on prognosis of patients with HCC.”
Liver Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Pancreatic Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In this 2006 study in Spain Pancreatic cancer cells were treated with cannabinoids. The researchers discovered that “Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol–induced apoptosis. Cannabinoids also reduced the growth of tumor cells in two animal models of pancreatic cancer. In addition, cannabinoid treatment inhibited the spreading of pancreatic tumor cells. Moreover, cannabinoid administration selectively increased apoptosis and TRB3 expression in pancreatic tumor cells but not in normal tissue. In conclusion, results presented here show that cannabinoids lead to apoptosis of pancreatic tumor cells”. The authors concluded that “These findings may contribute to set the basis for a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.”
In 2011, Italian researchers published a study on the effects of cannabinoids on pancreatic cancer. The researchers discoverered that cannabinoids “strongly inhibits growth of human pancreatic tumor cells” without a toxic effect.
Pancreatic Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Skin Cancer and Cannabis Oil
In 2003, researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University published a study entitled “Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors”. They looked at the various mechanisms by which cannabinoids kill skin cancer cells. They concluded that their positive results “opens the attractive possibility of finding cannabinoid-based therapeutic strategies for diseases of the skin and other tissues devoid of nondesired CB1-mediated psychotropic side effects.”
Skin Cancer and Cannabis Oil: Testimonials
Dr. Robert Melamede offered up a nice quote which sums up the collective body of research, and where it might lead in the future:
“A growing body of preclinical and clinical data concludes that cannabinoids can reduce the spread of specific cancer cells via apoptosis (programmed cell death) and by the inhibition of angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels). Arguably, these latter findings represent far broader and more significant applications for cannabinoid therapeutics than researchers could have imagined some thirty or even twenty years ago.”
Cannabis Oil Vs Cancer… The Tipping Point?
Where do we go from here? Tough question to answer, of course. To do so I’m going to outline three potential tipping points – and by tipping point I mean the moment this still underground movement becomes accepted by so many people that governments are forced to act and legalize the treatment.
Cannabis Oil Tipping Point #1:
Weed The People
In 2013 a CNN documentary called “Weed” had a seismic effect on the public’s awareness of CBD as a treatment for Dravet Syndrome. In the months following the documentary 11 states have legalized this form of medical cannabis. And these are some of the most conservative states in the union.
So could a similarly seismic event occur with Weed The People?
Ricki Lake is producing Weed the People, which naturally brings it a certain level of media attention. So it’s easy to imagine Weed the People having the same effect on families struggling with cancer that Sanjay Gupta’s documentary had on families struggling with epilepsy. I’ve been following this project very closely and would like to share some images and comments left on Facebook. For the time being only a few thousand people on Facebook are aware of these events unfolding, but what happens when millions of people see these stories play out on their TVs?
Cannabis Oil Tipping Point #2:
Run From The Cure 2
Run From the Cure was a massive moment. It was an important and powerful documentary, seen millions of times online, and has been indirectly responsible for saving lives. But let’s be honest, it’s not the slickest documentary ever produced.
Run From the Cure 2 has been in development for some time now, also being directed by Christian Laurette, and he has made clear that the production values will be far higher in the sequel.
Here’s the trailer:
We will get to see yet more people cured by Rick Simpson Oil, and hear some really heart-wrenching stories of people battling the law while they battle cancer. But based on the trailer (and the original Run From the Cure) this will be quite different than Weed the People. While Weed the People will be a tear-jerking, feel-good documentary, Run From the Cure 2 will have a righteous anger and activist’s passion. Weed the People will tell people about the cure for cancer, Run From the Cure 2 will scream about it, and won’t just be talking about cancer. Rick Simpson calls his Phoenix Tears uber-extract of cannabis a “cure-all”, something which causes many cannabis activists to sneer and jeer. But since most of us have never made Phoenix Tears – or given it to people with serious illnesses – and given that Rick has indisputably done so to thousands of people… well, it seems absurd for people to dismiss Rick out of hand. If he was selling the oil, or otherwise profiteering from cannabis, then such cynicism would be understandable, but saving thousands of lives for free is nothing to be cynical about.
I have hopes that Run From the Cure 2 will be a pivotal moment for the movement – a moment when not only will cannabis oil be widely recognized as medicine, but Rick Simpson will finally become the household name he should have been for the last decade.
Cannabis Oil Tipping Point #3:
GW Pharmaceutical’s Clinical Trial
As I listed above, we’ve had a wealth of preclinical data showing the various ways cannabinoids kill cancer cells, but to date there has only been one small clinical trial in humans. That took place in 2006 in Spain and was on brain cancer. The study showed that pure THC slowed the growth of tumors in the patients, and in two patients it shrank tumors. It was an important study, but it was only a small trial, and involved only THC.
In 2013 GW Pharmaceuticals announced they were to perform another clinical trial in brain cancer. In the press release GW announced that “it has commenced a Phase 1b/2a clinical trial for the treatment of Recurrent Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM)”.
The press release mentioned preclinical work undertaken by GW: “This study follows several years of pre-clinical research conducted by GW in the field of glioma which has demonstrated that cannabinoids inhibit the viability of glioma cells both in vitro and in vivoi,ii via apoptosis or programmed cell death, may also affect angiogenesis, and have demonstrated tumor growth-inhibiting action.”
Dr. Stephen Wright, Director of Research and Development at GW, had this to say about the clinical trial: “We are very excited about moving this compound into further human study and the prospects of cannabinoids as new anti-cancer treatments. This is GW’s first clinical study of cannabinoids as a potential treatment to inhibit tumor growth.”
The trial isn’t expected to begin until 2015 or 2016, but it will be fascinating to see the outcome, and it could be the moment the wider medical establishment starts taking this issue seriously. The findings will certainly make the news, and will lead to many cancer patients – not just brain cancer patients – demanding cannabis treatment.
Which of these three potential tipping points will be “the one”, no one can yet say. Of course the tipping point might be something else entirely. But it will be exciting to see how this story develops over the next few years.
Cannabis Oil and Cancer:
The Bottom Line
Regardless, some things are already clear: more patients than ever before are treating their cancers with high THC and high CBD cannabis extracts, and more people are hearing about it every day.
That tipping point approaches, one way or another. That’s the bottom line. It can’t be stopped, the truth can’t be silenced, and the people will be healed.
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