It’s no secret that many cancer patients are using cannabis to help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of chemotherapy. Less well known is the fact that extensive preclinical research shows that plant cannabinoids — most notably, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – produce antitumor responses in various animal models of cancer.
Scientists in at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, briefly review 10 studies that shed light on how CBD might interact with cancer treatments.
Sometimes, science fails to see the tree for the forest. Statistical significance and double-blind trials are important, but so is human experience. Case studies are meaningful. Case studies often portend future discovery. So the case study of two Brazilian brain cancer patients who successfully combined CBD with their cancer treatment should not be dismissed. In their report, Paula Dall’Stella and other doctors in São Paulo describe the typical treatment plan for patients with glioblastoma.
Breast cancers are often classified by the receptors they express. The three most common breast cancer receptors respond to estrogen, progesterone, or epidermal growth factor. The latter include HER2-positive breast cancers. Identifying these receptors facilitates treatment. A study led by scientists in Spain indicates that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the treatment of HER2-positive cancer.
Doctors in the UK recently reported the case of an elderly man who’s lung cancer responded to CBD. The man — being 81 years old — decided against chemotherapy or radiation, which would worsen his quality of life without much hope for extending it. Four months after a CT scan, the tumor cross section had shrunk to nearly one tenth of its initial size! The doctors — obviously surprised — found out that the patient had begun using a CBD oil 2-3 months earlier.
An “orphan receptor” is the term for a receptor in the body whose natural activator is not known. GPR55 is a G-protein coupled orphan receptor that interacts with the other cannabinoid system. CBD appears to inhibit GPR55, while endocannabinoids may activate it. Researchers in the UK and Italy collaborated on a study of GPR55 in pancreatic cancer.
The first medical use of THC allowed by the FDA was the 1985 approval of isolate THC (Marinol) to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Since then, research has demonstrated numerous possible applications of THC and cannabis in cancer patients, including painkilling, protecting the brain from toxic chemo, and even synergizing with the treatment itself.
Marijuana has had a turbulent history in the United States. Starting in the mid-1990s, however, there was a push to introduce the medical benefits of cannabis to the American people once again— “once again,” because before the 20th century, marijuana was almost entirely legal.
Once upon a time, cannabis and humulus (hops) were the same plant.
About 27 million years ago, cannabis and hops diverged from their common ancestor and evolved as separate botanical species.
Today, cannabis and humulus are identified as distinct species within the same plant family Cannabaceae. One can see a family resemblance in the jagged-edged leaves emblematic of both plants.
Laura was a physician who spent much of her clinical time treating substance abuse disorders, and she had no recent experience with cannabis herself. Her aversion to using cannabis when she was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer did not surprise me. Nausea, and the anxiety that preceded its inevitable occurrence, were disabling. I trained with Laura in family medicine, and I had appreciated the beneficial effects of cannabis used by my cancer patients, but it was hard getting Laura to accept my advice.