CANNABIS CULTURE- Whilst the jury is out on whether cannabis can cure cancer, there are a heck of a lot of people saying that using it helps at least. At the moment, cannabis is usually recommended for help in overcoming the side-effects of chemotherapy, rather than the cancer itself.
However, there is an increasing amount of evidence – mostly observed – coming out that cannabis has anti-cancer properties as well, suggesting that it has a double-pronged use: mitigating the nausea and pain of chemotherapy as well as helping beat cancer. This already gives cannabis a therapeutic potential far bigger than many other drugs or treatment methods out there at the moment. Now, this isn’t to say that “cannabis makes other drugs and treatments unnecessary”, but it certainly seems that it can be an excellent complement to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Also, when it comes to evidence, there is a study by GW Pharmaceuticals, entitled “GW Pharmaceuticals Achieves Positive Results in Phase 2 Proof of Concept Study in Glioma”. This is a phase 2 placebo-controlled clinical study of 21 patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM – a type of brain tumor that grows from glial cells in the brain), who were all given a proprietary combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The results? To quote:
“The study showed that patients with documented recurrent GBM treated with THC:CBD had an 83 percent one year survival rate compared with 53 percent for patients in the placebo cohort (p=0.042). Median survival for the THC:CBD group was greater than 550 days compared with 369 days in the placebo group. THC:CBD was generally well tolerated with treatment emergent adverse events leading to discontinuation in two patients in each group.”
Further on, Professor Susan Short, PhD, says:
“The findings from this well-designed controlled study suggest that the addition of a combination of THC and CBD to patients on dose-intensive temozolomide produced relevant improvements in survival compared with placebo and this is a good signal of potential efficacy … Moreover, the cannabinoid medicine was generally well tolerated. These promising results are of particular interest as the pharmacology of the THC:CBD product appears to be distinct from existing oncology medications and may offer a unique and possibly synergistic option for future glioma treatment.”
Of the 21 patients who took part in the study, only 2 people in each group had adverse side-effects and discontinued cannabis use due to them. The most common adverse effects were vomiting (75%), dizziness (67%), nausea (58%), headache (33%) and constipation (33%).
This study by GW Pharmaceuticals is not the only one. There’s also (be ready for a mouthful) “The Combination of Cannabidiol and Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Enhances the Anticancer Effects of Radiation in an Orthotopic Murine Glioma Model” by Katherine A. Scott, Angus G. Dalgleish and Wai M. Liu. This study suggests that a combination of CBD and THC “can prime glioma cells to respond better to ionizing radiation, and suggest a potential clinical benefit for glioma patients by using these two treatment modalities”.
So, what else can we potentially determine when looking at these results? That’s right: specific cannabinoid concentrations can help treat specific cancers. Supporting this supposition is the piece “Treating Breast Cancer with Cannabinoids”. Now, this isn’t a scientific study per se, but based upon what doctors and patients have seen so far for themselves. To summarise what this article states …
Breast cancers are usually grouped into one of four categories:
- Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+), which makes up about 2 in 3 cases of diagnosed breast cancer cases.
- HER2/neu, which is a protein that is over-copied by certain types of breast cancer, with this type of cancer spreading more rapidly than other cancers.
- Triple negative, which are breast cancers which aren’t ER+ or PR+, and do not show HER2 overproduction. This cancer type cannot be treated with hormones and HER2 drugs, but chemotherapy is still an option.
- Triple positive, which are both ER+ and PR+, and there’s too much HER2 production. This type of cancer can be treated with hormones, HER2 drugs and chemotherapy.
As for which cannabinoid concentration is best for which type of cancer …
- A THC-to-CBD ratio of 4:1 is most effective for PR+, HER2-positive and triple negative breast cancer types.
- Patients with ER+ or triple positive breast cancer types respond most well to a THC-to-CBD ratio of 1:1 or 1:3. Patients suffering from ER+ or triple positive breast cancer types may want to avoid ingesting too much THC, as THC may increase estrogen production.
To state once again, this is not based on double-blind or placebo-controlled studies, but observations based on what doctors, patients and in vivo models state so far. However, there are a couple of other studies lending their support to such an observation. One such study is “Targeting multiple cannabinoid anti-tumour pathways with a resorcinol derivative leads to inhibition of advanced stages of breast cancer”, which was published in the British Journal of Pharmacology. The other is “How THC and CBD Work Together”, which is not a study, but tells us of the research taking place at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco into specific cannabinoid concentrations for specific cancers.
One thing missing from all of this is a look at any potential cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions, and whether or not these could help cannabis do an even better job. Humulene, alpha-pinene, borneol and alpha-terpineol are all examples of terpenes that could help kill tumors. We know that having different terpenoids can produce certain physiological effects, even when cannabinoid concentrations are the same. Yes, this means that a bottle of tincture containing, for example, beta-caryophyllene, linalool and pinene will have a different physiological effect to a tincture containing humulene, myrcene and limonene, even if they are both 1:1 THC-to-CBD concentrations. Hopefully, researchers will start to include terpenoids as well as cannabinoids into their research in future, and see how these could have any beneficial effects as well.
All of this represents a potentially massive breakthrough, and could not only help create safe, effective cannabinoid-based anticancer medications, but also potentially a step into the world of specific medication types for specific conditions and patients. Heck, even drugs as benign as acetaminophen (Paracetamol) are ineffective for many people, so imagine a world where drugs and medications are tailored to suit people’s specific physiologies! Cannabis could be one of the keys to developing such medications, especially as it’s so intimately related to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the the body’s ability to keep in physiological balance (homeostasis).
On a final note, it is worth stating that some of these ideas are not new at all. In fact, there’s a really interesting study in the September 1975 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Volume 55, Issue 3) entitled, “Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids” by A.E. Munson et al. The full study can be read here, so you don’t have to have an Oxford Academic account.
Although the study was carried out on mice, it was forward-thinking enough to include not only cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but cannabinol (CBN – which doesn’t usually occur in cannabis when it’s fresh, but does as it gets older and THC breaks down) as well. The tumor systems used were the Lewis lung adenocarcinoma, leukemia L1210 and B-tropic Friend leukemia. In the abstract, it states:
“Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannabinol (CBN), but not cannabidiol (CBD).”
Sadly, the study did not try out all three at the same time as well as separately. The study also shows that CBD on its own increased tumor growth in mice. Of course, the study’s application to humans should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s important to realize that this shows that one particular cannabinoid does not hold all of the medical properties, and that different types of cancer need different cannabinoid concentrations to treat them. Otherwise, patients actually run the chance of potentially getting worse.
So, if you’re unfortunate enough to have been diagnosed with cancer and are thinking of getting yourself a medical marijuana card, get one as soon as you can, ensure you know precisely what type of cancer you have, and ask as many doctors and researchers as you can about getting a hold of the right cannabinoid concentrations for you.