Understanding the problems of using cannabis as a potential therapeutic treatment for cancer
Posted on July 27, 2015 | By Henry | Leave a response
Although there’s no solid scientific evidence at the moment that cannabinoids or cannabis can cure cancer, it seems like more and more patients are seeing success in cancer reduction by using cannabis. Does it mean that cannabis can cut the risk of cancer and effectively treat cancer? Many health benefits have actually been associated with cannabis, and over the past couple of decades, scientists have started to show that cannabis can combat depression, anxiety and ADHD, treat epilepsy, lower insulin levels in diabetics and even slow the spread of cancer cells in some cases. Let’s deepen the question and understand the problems related to the use of cannabis as a potential cure for cancer.
Studies about cannabis and cancer
Keep in mind that most scientific research investigating whether cannabinoids can treat cancer has been done using cancer cells grown in the lab or animal models. It’s important to be cautious when extrapolating these results up to real live patients, who tend to be a lot more complex…
Various reports have shown that cannabinoids (the active components of marijuana and their derivatives) can reduce tumor growth and progression in animal models of cancer. In experiments with mice, animals given very high doses of purified THC seemed to have a lower risk of developing cancer. Another laboratory study of cannabidiol in human glioma cells also showed that, when given along with chemotherapy, cannabidiol may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells.
On the other hand, it is also said that cannabinoids may also have undesirable effects on cancer. Some researchers have found that, although high doses of THC can kill cancer cells, they also harm crucial blood vessel cells and can actually encourage cancer cells to grow. They have different effects depending on the dosage and levels of cannabinoid receptors present on the cancer cells. In addition, some scientists have found that certain synthetic cannabinoids may enhance immune defenses against cancer, and cancer cells can develop resistance to cannabinoids.
Problems of using herbal cannabis
– Legalization: In some parts of the world, medical use of marijuana has been legalized for palliative use, and cannabis and cannabinoids are used to treat the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies (relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite often caused by chemotherapy). Patients can obtain standardized, medicinal-grade cannabis from their doctor in the Netherlands and many states in the US, but cannabis is still an illicit drug in most countries.
– Importance of dosage: Another problem of using herbal cannabis is about dosage. Smoking it, taking it in the form of tea or using cannabis oil (hash oil) often provides a variable dose, which may make it difficult for patients to monitor their intake. Researchers are turning to alternative dosing methods. A growing number of clinical trials are studying a medicine made from a whole-plant extract of cannabis that contains specific amounts of cannabinoids. This medicine is sprayed under the tongue.
– Quality of marijuana: Another problematic aspect is that how and where the marijuana is grown, and how it is prepared, can affect significantly the amount of active chemicals found in the plant.
– Type of cannabinoid: It’s still not clear which type of cannabinoid — either natural or synthetic — might be most effective or which types of cancer might respond best to them.
– Side effects: Naturally occurring cannabinoids are broadly safe, they are not without risks. They can increase heart rate and interact with other drugs in the body, including antidepressants and antihistamines. They may also affect how the body processes certain chemotherapy drugs.
Could cannabis be a potential cure for cancer?
There’s a lot of interesting research about the role of cannabinoid receptors in cancer, and it will likely be a useful tool to add to anticancer therapies. Although there are more and more individual stories about cures using cannabis, more evidence is definitely needed to show that it can effectively treat cancer in people on a wider scale..