Medical marijuana has been legalized in some nations for relieving pain and symptoms, including cancer. People often link cannabis and cancer too. But is it really true? Would cannabis be able to kill cancer? What does the research say? Let’s try to find out the answers in the following article!
Numerous researchers worldwide are actively investigating cannabinoids, and Cancer Research UK is helping some of this work.
These studies utilize highly purified chemicals found in the cannabis plant or lab-made versions of them, and there is a genuine interest in these as potential cancer treatments.
This article will describe the usage of cannabis and its components as a treatment for people with cancer-related symptoms induced by the disease itself or its treatment.
We will also review the job of cannabis and the cannabinoids in treating cancer patients and cancer-related or treatment side effects.
Cannabis and Cannabinoids
Cannabis has various names, including marijuana, pot, grass, weed, hemp, hashish, or dope. The cannabis plant generates a resin containing psychoactive compounds known as cannabinoids, in addition to other compounds located in plants, such as terpenes and flavonoids.
Different compounds in cannabis have different actions in the human body. For instance, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) seems to cause the high reported by marijuana users and can help reduce pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and act as a cell reinforcement.
Cannabidiol (CBD) can help treat seizures, reduce anxiety and neurosis, and counteract the high caused by THC. The effects of marijuana also change, depending on how cannabis compounds enter the body.
Marijuana has been used in homegrown remedies for centuries. Scientists have identified numerous biologically active components in weed. These are called cannabinoids.
The two best-studied components are the chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Other cannabinoids are being studied.
Cannabinoids are known as chemical compounds that interact with the cannabinoid receptors. Humans include CB1, predominantly evident on neurons in the brain and focal nervous system, and CB2 expressed in non-neuronal tissues such as invulnerable cells.
Cancer cells can express these receptors also, and some studies are merged as to whether it can show better or worse prognosis in comparison to cells that don’t have the receptors.
The effects of cannabinoids on cancer cells are not restricted to interaction with these receptors, as many studies have documented effects that are not blocked by preventing these receptors.
THC is the cannabinoid classically associated with the psychoactive and appetite-stimulating effects, although it is not exclusively so. Cannabidiol is another cannabinoid that also has been studied for hostile to cancer effects and is often referred to as CBD.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a title used for diseases in which abnormal cells isolate without control and are usually ready to invade other tissues, causing metastases and high mortality and morbidity rates.
One thing you need to understand that cancer is not just one disease but many diseases: more than 100 various cancers are well-described from a histopathological perspective by the World Health Organization.
Most probably, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of types of cancers according to atomic and genetic profiling.
Most cancers are termed for the organ or type of cell wherein they begin. Moreover, cancer types are generally grouped into the following more extensive categories:
- Carcinoma: begins in the skin or in tissues that line or spread internal organs.
- Sarcoma: begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
- Leukemia: starts in blood-forming tissues like the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be delivered and enter the blood.
- Lymphoma and myeloma: begin in the cells of the resistant system.
- Central nervous system cancers: begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
Cancer is a severe and heterogeneous disease, so fighting it therapeutically remains a tough challenge. Cannabinoids might, therefore, offer productive effects in some cancers but not in others.
How Would Marijuana be able to Influence Symptoms of Cancer?
Various small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can help treat nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy.
A couple of studies have discovered that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be an effective therapy of neuropathic (pain caused by damaged nerves).
Smoked marijuana has also improved food intake in HIV patients in studies. There are no studies in individuals of the effects of cannabis oil or hemp oil.
Studies have shown that people who took cannabis extracts in clinical trials would, in general, require fewer pain medicines.
More recently, scientists stated that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause passing in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes.
Some animal studies suggest that certain cannabinoids may decrease the growth and reduce the growth of some types of cancer.
There have been some timely clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans, and more studies are arranged. While the studies so far have indicated that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not mean that they help control or cure the disease.
Relying on cannabis alone as treatment while avoiding or delaying traditional medical consideration for cancer may have serious health consequences.
The possible benefits of medicinal cannabis for patients living with cancer include the following:
Nausea and Vomiting
Numerous people living with cancer undergo nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy. There are several medications accessible to treat this symptom.
Dronabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this symptom. Moreover, studies have stated that medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting.
Anorexia is the term used medically for loss of appetite. Cachexia and wasting syndrome is a wonder of unintentional weight loss, specifically the loss of fit muscle and fat.
It is often followed by fatigue and a decline in practical abilities. Synthetic cannabinoid Dronabinol is also an FDA-approved for anorexia related to acquired invulnerable insufficiency syndrome (AIDS), but not specifically for cancer.
There are limited studies that demonstrate the viability of medical marijuana in the management of these symptoms. However, marijuana may improve one’s appetite, and this condition might be a state-approved indication for medical marijuana.
Neuropathy is a term known for nerve damage, which is a typical confusion of chemotherapy and other cancer therapies. It is typically identified by a feeling of weakness, numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet.
Medical marijuana has been shown to give help to those experiencing pain from neuropathy.
Cannabis can work similarly to opioids (the most potent pain relievers available) when treating people living with cancer-related pain.
Additionally, it might have easing effects that can help with the pain. Some treatment plans may include both opioids and marijuana.
Hostile to Neoplastic
Pre-clinical studies (lab and animal testing) show that marijuana might be useful in slowing down or stopping the growth of certain tumors.
Until this point, there has been one small human preliminary to study this enemy of cancer effect. However, other studies show an association between recreational marijuana use and the improvement of certain cancers.
These studies do not show that cannabis is a cause of these cancers, but there could be some links. Further research is expected to understand the safety profile and potential enemy of neoplastic effects of this treatment.
Although not many pertinent surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients in the United States who suggest medicinal cannabis do so predominantly for symptom management.
A Brief History of Cannabinoids and Cancer
Cannabis use for medicinal purposes dates back around almost 3,000 years. In 1839, it was introduced into Western medicine by WB O’Shaughnessy, a surgeon who tried to understand its medicinal qualities while working in India for the British East India Company.
Its use was advanced for reported analgesic, sedative, calming, antispasmodic, and anticonvulsant effects.
In recent times, the neurobiology of cannabinoids has been dissected. The first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was spotted in the brain in 1988. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was located later in 1993.
The highest expression of CB2 receptors is situated on B lymphocytes and characteristic executioner cells, suggesting a possible immunity job.
Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) have been recognized and appear to have a job in pain modulation, the charge of movement, feeding behavior, mood, bone growth, inflammation, neuroprotection, and memory.
There are two chemically pure medications based on cannabis compounds that have been approved in the US for medical usage.
Dronabinol (Marinol®) is a gelatin pill carrying delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to heal nausea and vomiting generated by cancer chemotherapy and weight loss and loss of appetite in AIDS patients.
Nabilone (Cesamet®) is a simulated cannabinoid that acts a lot of like THC. It can be consumed by mouth to treat nausea and vomiting produced by cancer chemotherapy when other medications have not worked.
Nabiximols is a cannabinoid drug still under observation in the US. It’s a mouth spray comprised of an entire plant extract with THC and cannabidiol (CBD) in an almost coordinated mix.
It is available in Canada and parts of Europe to treat pain associated with cancer and muscle spasms and pain from various sclerosis (MS). It’s not approved in the US right now, but it’s being tested in clinical trials to see if it can help various conditions.
Based on various studies, Dronabinol can be useful for reducing nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.
Dronabinol has also been identified to help improve food intake and prevent weight loss in HIV patients. In studies of cancer patients, though, it was not better than a placebo or another drug (megestrol acetate).
Nabiximols have shown hope for assisting patients with cancer pain unrelieved by strong pain medicines, but it hasn’t been seen as accommodating in every study. It still requires research on this drug.
Side effects of cannabinoid drugs
In the same way as other drugs, prescription cannabinoids, Dronabinol, and Nabilone can cause side effects and complications.
Some individuals experience difficulty with an increased pulse, decreased blood pressure (especially when standing up), dizziness or lightheadedness, and fainting.
These drugs can cause drowsiness and mood swings or a feeling of being “high” that some users find uncomfortable. They can also worsen depression, craziness, or other psychological sicknesses.
Some patients taking Nabilone in studies stated that they have hallucinations. The drugs may increase some impacts of sedatives, sleeping pills, or alcohol, such as sleepiness and poor coordination. People have also reported problems with dry mouth and issues with recent memory.
Older patients may have more issues with side effects and are usually started on lower doses.
Patients who have had emotional illnesses, distrust, or hallucinations may find their symptoms worse when taking cannabinoid medications.
You should consult your doctor about what you should expect when taking one of these drugs. It’s a good plan to have someone with you when you first start taking one of these drugs and after any dose changes.
Cannabis in Clinical Trials on Cancer
In laboratory studies, tumor cells are utilized to test a substance to determine if it is probably going to have any rival of cancer effects. In animal experiments, tests are done to see if a drug, method, or treatment is reliable and competent.
Laboratory and animal experiments are done before a substance is tested on people. No current clinical trials of cannabis as a treatment for cancer in humans were identified in a PubMed search.
The main published preliminary of any cannabinoid in people with cancer is a small pilot experiment of intratumoral injection of delta-9-THC in individuals with intermittent glioblastoma multiforme, which demonstrated no significant clinical benefit.
In a preliminary led in Israel, oral CBD was investigated as a single salvage agent for repetitive solid tumors. The study was anticipated to be finished in 2015; however, no results have been published.
Clinical information regarding cannabis as an enemy of cancer agents in pediatric use is limited to a couple of case reports.
To read the detailed PDQ Summary by the National Cancer Institute, visit here!
There are two expected roles for cannabis in cancer management: as an essential treatment or as an adjuvant therapy planned for improving symptoms of cancer or the side effects of the medical invention.
Sadly, the status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug has severely limited scientific inquiry into the possible benefits (and side effects) of cannabis regarding cancer, especially as an essential treatment.
A couple of studies done in mice, rats, and in vitro, human cancer cell lines indicate that cannabinoids might have a preventive effect against the advancement of certain types of tumors.
Cannabinoids might cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell passing, cell growth inhibition, and restriction of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.
Cancer Research UK has supported research into cannabinoids, notably the work of Professor Chris Paraskeva in Bristol, investigating the properties of cannabinoids as a component of his research into cancer prevention and treatment.
He has published various papers detailing lab experiments looking at endocannabinoids and THC and written a review looking at the capability of cannabinoids for treating bowel cancer.
Results have been published from just a single small clinical preliminary testing whether cannabinoids can treat cancer in patients, drove by Dr. Manuel Guzman and his team in Spain.
This study indicated that THC given in this way is safe and doesn’t seem to cause significant side effects, suggesting that cannabinoids could be worth pursuing further clinical trials.
But because this was a beginning phase preliminary without a benchmark group, it couldn’t show whether THC expanded patients’ lives.
Let’s understand this in detail!
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has published their study results in which they stated that cannabis might help fight cancer. So how does cannabis kill cancer?
There are 21 chemical components detected in cannabis known as cannabinoids. These chemicals trigger specific receptors found throughout the body to generate pharmacologic results in the patient’s immune system and central nervous system.
This is the physiological and biochemical modifications in the body generated by a drug in therapeutic concentration.
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive component found in marijuana. However, there are other compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin(THCv), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and delta-8-THC that can have pharmacologic effects.
During a two-year study, groups of mice and rats were given various THC doses by tube feeding. Tests were also done on many cancerous cells.
Here is what they discover:
- Cannabinoids might reduce tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking blood vessels’ development needed to grow tumors.
- Lab tests on animals have indicated that cannabinoids may kill cancer cells while protecting healthy cells.
- Cannabinoids might protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in overcoming the risk of colon cancer, and perhaps in its treatment.
- A laboratory study of THC in liver cancer cells showed it damaged or killed the cancer cells.
- The same study of THC in models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects.
- CBD may make chemotherapy more effective
Do Cannabinoids Restrain Cancer Growth? (Laboratory research)
All the studies into cannabinoids and cancer cells have been led so far using cancer cells grown in the lab or animal models.
Numerous scientific studies have reported that various cannabinoids (both regular and artificial) apply a wide range of growth-inhibiting effects on cancer cells, including:
- Triggering cell passing through a mechanism called apoptosis
- Stopping cells from dividing
- Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumors – a process named angiogenesis
- Reducing the possibilities of cancer cells to metastasize through the body by stopping cells from moving or invading neighboring tissue
- Speeding up the internal ‘waste disposal machine’ of a cell – a process recognized as autophagy – which can prompt cell demise
Cannabinoids are effective drugs to treat probably some types of cancers in laboratory animals – mice and rats.
Do Cannabinoids Inhibit Cancer Growth? (Clinical research)
According to an article published by Dr. Manuel Guzmán named “Cancer: Do cannabinoids cure cancer?”, the results have been published from just one Phase I clinical preliminary testing whether cannabinoids can treat cancer in patients.
Nine individuals with cutting edge, repetitive glioblastoma multiforme – an aggressive brain tumor–that had previously failed standard therapy were given highly purified THC via a catheter legitimately into their brain.
Under these conditions, cannabinoid delivery was secure and could be accomplished without significant undesirable effects.
Besides, although no statistically-significant conclusions can be extracted from such a small cohort of patients and without a benchmark group, the results obtained suggested that some patients responded to THC treatment in terms of decreased tumor growth rate, as assessed by imaging and biomarker analyses.
These conclusions were encouraging and substantially reinforced the interest in the expected use of cannabinoids in cancer therapies.
However, they also highlighted the requirement for further research planned for optimizing the use of cannabinoids in patient selection, combination with other enemies of cancer agents, and the use of other routes of administration.
There are still endless unanswered questions around the potential for using cannabinoids as opposed to cancer drugs.
It is necessary and advisable that exhaustive clinical studies are directed to discover how cannabinoids can be used, except for their palliative effects, to heal cancer patients.
Can Cannabis be Used to Treat Cancer?
A vast number of scientific papers looking at cannabinoids and cancer have been published. Still, these studies simply haven’t discovered enough definite scientific proof to demonstrate that these can safely and effectively treat cancer.
There have been intriguing outcomes from lab experiments looking at various different cancers, including glioblastoma brain tumors, prostate, breast, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
The take-home lesson is that different cannabinoids seem to affect various cancer types effectively, so they are far away from being known as ‘universal’ treatment.
Many types of research are still ongoing, though, with hundreds of scientists investigating the capability of cannabinoids in cancer and other diseases as a significant aspect of The International Cannabinoid Research Society.
In a nutshell, we can say that currently, there isn’t enough reliable proof to demonstrate that any form of cannabis can efficiently treat cancer patients.
This includes cannabis oil, hemp oil, or the active chemicals found within the cannabis plant (cannabinoids) – whether conventional or human-made.
Right now, there isn’t enough proof to demonstrate that cannabinoids – whether regular or synthetic – can effectively heal cancer in patients, although research is ongoing. And there’s certainly no proof that street cannabis can treat cancer.
While cannabis is not a magic shot for cancer, there is pre-clinical proof in animal models and cell lines (cancer cells grown in Petri dishes in the lab) to suggest cannabis might have an enemy of cancer effect on humans.
However, remember that most drugs that perform similarly well in pre-clinical models go out not to withdraw cancer or help people with living longer when tested in definitive human trials.
As the legalization of medical marijuana shifts across North America, more research will continue to uncover how we can best use cannabis or its isolates/derivatives for medical purposes.