Medical Cannabis remains a controversial issue, however, it has been shown that cannabinoids contained in the marijuana plant can offer various benefits to cancer patients.
As the regulation of therapeutic marijuana worldwide advances, more research is being conducted on the possible effects of THC and CBD, the main cannabinoid compounds that may offer the greatest benefits.
However, the information available to patients and their families is scarce and confusing. That’s why in this article we’re going to explain how cannabinoids can support cancer treatment and what the scientific basis for these claims is.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases that cause abnormal cell division and multiplication in the body. In a healthy person, cells grow and multiply to form new cells, and when cells become damaged or old, they are replaced by new cells.
In a cancer patient, this balance has been broken and the damaged cells do not die, but grow continuously to form a tumor mass and also form new blood vessels that feed them.
Can Marijuana Cure Cancer?
Marijuana does not cure cancer. But products extracted from the plant Cannabis sativa (cannabinoids), such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), help to treat the disease.
These substances help to:
- Relieve the symptoms of the disease.
- Reduce the side effects of medications and treatments.
- Support for cancer treatment.
Studies have shown that cannabinoids help to cope with the pain, fatigue and others discomforts that cancer patients experience, such as relieving nausea, other effects of medications, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
In addition, there is evidence that some cannabinoids in marijuana slow the growth of cancer and inhibit the formation of new blood cells that feed the tumor.
Research on THC and CBD cannabinoids has shown promising results. These cannabinoids are considered a non-toxic and safe therapy because their side effects are minor. But it should be noted that medicinal Cannabis is recommended as part of a comprehensive oncology approach.
In other words, it is a supportive therapy that in no case supplants the medical treatment of the disease. In many cases, it is used to enhance the impact of some anti-cancer drugs.
How does Marijuana Help in the Treatment of Cancer?
Relieves symptoms and/or their impact
Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD help to relieve pain, lack of appetite, sleep disturbances and improve mood.
The use of THC as a psychotropic is also palliative in terminal stages, helping the patient to relax, improve the feeling of well-being and reduce distress.
You can read more about the benefits of THC at Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Medicinal Effects of Marijuana.
Relieves the side effects of chemotherapy
Cannabinoids reduce pain, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite from chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
As an antitumor agent
Cannabinoids provide various antitumor effects:
- They cause the death of tumor cells without affecting healthy ones.
- They inhibit the formation of blood vessels that nourish the tumor.
- They prevent cell migration by reducing tumor spread and metastasis.
Marijuana and Cancer Studies
Palliative treatment of cancer symptoms and drug side effects have been demonstrated in several animals and human clinical trials.
But in addition, there are multiple studies on cannabinoids and their antitumor properties.
- In preclinical studies, anti-tumor activity has been demonstrated in THC and CBD cannabinoids for different types of tumors: Gliomas (cerebral), melanoma and cutaneous (skin), breast, pancreas, prostate, and liver, among others.
(Munson et al., 1975; Galve-Roperh et al., 2000; Velasco et al., 2012; Velasco et al., 2016).
- The cannabinoids THC and CBD activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors present in the tumor cells and cause their cell death.
(Carracedo et al., 2006; Salazar et al., 2009; Velasco et al., 2012; Hernandez-Tiedra et al., 2016).
- Cannabinoids inhibit the secretion of VEGF factor, necessary for the formation of blood vessels, by blocking the supply of nutrients necessary for tumor growth.
(Blazquez et al., 2003; Blazquez et al., 2004).
- Cannabinoids have the ability to modulate the action of metalloprotease enzymes, reducing the tumor’s migratory and invasive capacity.
(Blazquez et al., 2008; Velasco et al., 2012; Velasco et al., 2016).
- Animal studies show that cannabinoids can enhance treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
(Torres et al., 2011- Scott et al., 2014).
Researchers have observed in clinical studies that both CBD and THC may increase the effectiveness of conventional leukemia therapies. Both cannabinoids induce apoptosis (cell death) in leukemia cell lines.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, called “the grandfather of medicinal cannabis” explains that the body has its own cannabinoid system and also the ability to produce cannabinoids. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t produce enough.
For this reason, cannabinoid supplements from external sources trigger a number of beneficial effects in the treatment of cancer, as well as in the treatment of various diseases.
We would like to know your opinion and if you know of any cases in which a cancer patient has benefited from treatment with medical marijuana, do not hesitate to leave us your comments!