Can Cannabis Help Fight Against Cancer?
Cancer sucks. People all over the world are forced to deal with various forms of cancer. Many are taken away before their time due to this horrible disease. Others spend years fighting it, dealing with unpleasant side effects and a diminished quality of life.
Scientists are trying for years to find a cure for cancer. Although, treatments have improved over the years, we don’t have a cure yet. Still one thing has shown to be effective in slowing the growth of cancer cells and treating the symptoms associated with cancer – that’s cannabis.
Let’s take a closer look at how cannabis is effective in the fight against cancer.
What Is Cannabis?
Before we delve into this subject in more detail, it may be helpful to take a look at cannabis and the compounds it contains.
There are at least 483 different chemical compounds in cannabis, but the main five are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (Cannabidiol), THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin), CBN (Cannabinol) and CBG (Cannabigerol). Each of these provide health benefits that, in many cases, can be beneficial to cancer patients. Of all of these, both THC and THCV have mind altering effects while the rest do not.
Cannabis Slows the Growth of Cancer Cells
Cannabis can provide many benefits to cancer patients, but perhaps the most important of all is its ability to slow the growth of cancer cells. Mounting evidence shows that cannabinoids inhibit the formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor.
Early studies were conducted by Cristina Sanchez, a young biologist at the Complutense University in Madrid. She was studying brain cancer cells and noticed they died every time they were exposed to THC. Therefore, in 1998, she was able to report that THC ‘induces apoptosis (cell death) in C6 glioma cells’, an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Following Sanchez’s discovery, many other scientists were eager to see what they would find.
A team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman conducted clinical trial studies to see how THC would work in shrinking tumors in brain cancer patients. They administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine patients who were suffering with glioblastoma and had failed to respond to previous treatments. The team found that tumor cell proliferation in each test subject was greatly reduced.
Another study conducted at Harvard University found that THC worked to slow tumor growth in patients suffering with common lung cancer. They further determined that the compound has the ability to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed. This is in comparison to chemotherapy which kills both cancer cells and healthy cells resulting in damage to the brain and body.
At the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Dr. Sean McAllister published a detailed account of how CBD kills breast cancer cells and malignant tumors by switching off expression of the ID-1 gene, a protein that appears to play a major role as a cancer cell productor.
The ID-1 gene is active during human embryonic development and turns off and stays off once its job is done. However, in breast cancer and other forms of metastatic cancer, the gene becomes active again causing cells to invade and metastasize. CBD works to silence the ID-1 expression making it a possible breakthrough in anti-cancer medication.
CBD’s ability to silence the ID-1 expression has been further studied and has shown to be effective in the treatment of leukemia and prostate cancer as well. It can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy reducing the need for the chemotherapy treatment.
Cannabis in the Treatment of Cancer Symptoms:
Studies show that Cannabis does more than just treat cancer at the root. It can help treat symptoms associated with cancer and chemotherapy.
Both cancer and chemotherapy can bring on symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite. Here’s how cannabis can help.
Cannabis and Pain:
Pain can occur in cancer patients for many reasons. Most of the time, cancer patients experience pain due to tumors pressing on bones, nerves or other organs in the body. Pain can also be due to cancer treatment. Some chemotherapy drugs cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
As it interacts with the receptors in our brain and immune system. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to our cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli to help your cells respond. This creates anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects that help with pain management.
In the case of pain in cancer patients, CBD was sprayed into the mouths of cancer patients. The patients reported that when used in conjunction with opioids, CBD increased pain relief. This can make it effective in reducing the need for opioids in the treatment of pain.
The brain, GI system and nervous system all play a role in human’s becoming nauseated. The key to controlling nausea and vomiting seems to be in the receptors in the brain and GI tract that produce and bind with serotonin.
CBD works with serotonin releasing receptors to alleviate nausea and vomiting. Studies have shown that CBDA, the acidic, raw form of CBD, is even more effective at working with serotonin to reduce nausea.
THC also works to decrease nausea by binding with CB1 receptors in specific parts of the brain.
Cancer patients can experience nausea and vomiting as a result of their treatments (chemotherapy and radiation) as well as infections, constipation, inner ear problems, mineral imbalances and more. They can also experience nausea as a result of anxiety due to the negative expectations of treatment. This is known as the ‘nocebo effect’.
Cannabis and Loss of Appetite:
Many cancer patients suffer a loss of appetite. This can especially be the case in those suffering with ovarian, lung, stomach or pancreatic cancer which are related to the digestive tract. Loss of appetite can also be a side effect of treatments like chemotherapy and radiation or it can be associated with depression, fatigue and pain.
There are many cannabinoids that can cause an increase in appetite. THC is probably one of the most well known of these, famous for bringing on ‘the munchies’.
THC works to enhance the olfactory senses in the brain. One study showed that mice who were injected with THC experienced an increased ability to smell as they were more drawn to food scented oils placed in their confines. Because smell and taste are closely linked, a likely conclusion would be that THC can stimulate taste as well.
Further studies were conducted that showed that THC interacts with receptors in the hypothalamus of the brain possibly releasing the hormone ghrelin which stimulates hunger. Therefore, it can trick the body into thinking it’s hungry.
Although CBD has been shown to decrease appetite, cannabinoids like CBG and CBN and have been shown to stimulate appetite as well.
CBG and CBN:
When we talk of cannabinoids, CBD and THC are very much in the spotlight. But lately there has been increased interest in their lesser known sisters, CBN and CBG.
CBN has been studied for its ability to work as a cancer fighter and has been shown to reduce tumor size in one form of lung cancer. It has also been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and appetite stimulant.
CBG can provide a number of health benefits to cancer patients as well. It has been shown to inhibit MMPs which can prohibit the growth of cancer cells. Other studies have shown CBG to be effective as an appetite stimulant and a pain killer.
THC vs. Other Cannabinoids
Every person can react differently to cannabinoids and it’s important that they use what works best for them. However, it is important to note that THC is psychoactive. It can promote feelings of euphoria and provide several health benefits. THC may also lower control of movement and cause disorientation and bring on unpleasant thoughts and feelings of anxiety.
Ultimately, it is important to choose a treatment that works best for you, especially when dealing with a serious disease like cancer. However, it is important to understand the implications of THC if you choose it as a solution for your health issues.
In a world where cancer takes too many lives, scientists have been desperately seeking a cure. It’s good to know that cannabis is actually a serious candidate to be that cure. As Cannabis help kill cancer cells and treat the symptoms that come with cancer and its treatments. Hopefully the future will bring a way to do away with this terrible disease altogether.