Cannabis for cancer: Scientific proof of the plant’s ability to treat the disease

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Cannabis for cancer: Scientific proof of the plant’s ability to treat the disease

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Over the last 15-20 years, various bodies of research have revealed how cannabis for cancer could be an effective remedy.

The cannabis plant’s derivatives, including a well-known cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC,” have demonstrated anti-tumor activity in animal cancer models.

Numerous studies have determined that once administered in these animal models, cannabinoids effectively shrunk tumor growth in the brain (gliomas), pancreas, breasts, liver, prostate and skin carcinoma and melanoma, to name a few.

Let’s take a closer look at some cold, hard facts that prove the efficacy of using cannabis for cancer.

Spanish biology professor makes astonishing discovery about cannabis for cancer

A biology professor who teaches at Madrid-based Complutense University has been studying the potential of cannabis for cancer since the late 1990s. Primarily, he focuses on whether or not the brain’s cannabinoid receptors are defensive against tumors.

Guzmán has co-authored a number of studies that conclude cannabis for cancer is a good idea. The Spanish biology professor devoted 15 years of his time to investigating how cannabis’ psychoactive ingredient THC can halt cancer growth. Amazingly, the cancerous brain tumors stopped growing in a third of his study subjects. Moreover, cancer cells stopped growing in another third of Guzmán’s study subjects, resulting in the tumors being completely eradicated.

Back in the year 2006, Guzmán published the results of his clinical trials in The British Journal of Cancer and this time, the results were based on human study subjects. Nine patients with “glioblastoma” – the most aggressive form of cancer affecting the brain or spine – were treated with Guzmán’s THC combination. Prior to the clinical trial being conducted, the study subjects had not experienced any success. Incredibly, all nine of the study subjects responded to treatment, albeit partially.

Cannabis for cancer: How do cannabinoids work?

So, how do those potent medicinal cannabis compounds go about fighting the bad molecules inside our bodies? Well, these active ingredients can be found in their hundreds in the cannabis plant. However, only a few have been intensely studied, with the two most well-known cannabinoids being THC and its non-psychotropic counterpart, CBD (cannabidiol).

When they enter the body, cannabinoids trigger a number of receptors. Think of it as a network of electric cables running throughout the brain. Each cable has a purpose and so, if it is triggered, it serves that purpose.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the first cannabinoid receptor was discovered. Soon afterward, scientists delved into the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which produces cannabis-like chemicals inside the body. CB1 receptors are scattered around the brain, whereas CB2 receptors cluster inside the immune system. When it comes to their antitumor properties, cannabinoids are able to activate CB1 and CB2 receptors found inside the tumor cells. As a direct effect of this, “apoptosis” occurs – programmed cell death.

Cannabis for cancer: THC boasts antitumor properties

More patients are opening up to the idea of using cannabis to treat cancer. After all, with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) admitting that cannabis kills cancerous brain cells, the leafy green plant doesn’t seem like such a bad idea now, does it?

What’s even more astounding about the science behind cannabis for cancer is that the plant’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, has exhibited the most powerful anti-tumor properties. Before the world became educated on the topic of legal weed, THC was seen as a taboo chemical that contributed to the ‘stoner stereotype’ image that has long-tarnished cannabis’ image. Now, it is being hailed for its potential as a cancer treatment.

That’s not to say that CBD is useless for cancer patients, however. Based on the results of laboratory studies, tumor growth reduced in animal models that were treated with the non-psychoactive cannabinoid. On the other hand, the effects weren’t quite as potent as those produced by THC.

Further clinical trials needed on cannabis for cancer

Aside from blocking tumor growth, cannabis may also prove effective when used as a painkiller by patients with neuropathic pain, not to mention as an appetite stimulant for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy.

While the preclinical studies mentioned above are promising, it is essential to conduct further clinical trials to fully ascertain whether or not cannabis should be prescribed for treating cancerous brain tumors, among many other types of cancer.