Cancer and Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana helps cancer patients in several ways, alleviating unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, relieving pain, improving mood and outlook, and in some cases, attacking cancer cells.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy report that medical marijuana relieves spasms, promotes appetite, and reduces nausea and vomiting.
Marinol, a synthetic cannabis drug prescribed to treat nausea, does not contain the other ingredients of whole-plant cannabis that reduce side effects and provide other benefits.
Medical marijuana can be used to manage cancer pain that is resistant to opiate pain killers. Cancer pain has several causes, including inflammation, nerve injury, and tumor growth invading bone and other sensitive tissue. It is chronic and persistent. Cannabinoids act on the body in a different way from opiates, reducing inflammation and stimulating the body to produce a natural analgesic. Medical marijuana does not have the negative side effects of opiate use, such as constipation and confusion. The body does not develop tolerance as it does to opiate drugs, requiring stronger and stronger doses to achieve the same level of comfort.
There is increasing evidence that for some types of cancer cells, medical marijuana triggers apoptosis, the process by which cells kill themselves and are naturally cleaned up by the body. Cancer cells with cannabinoid (CB)1 or CB2 receptors react to the presence of THC or CBD, the two most active ingredients in marijuana. Studies have indicated that some liver, prostate, lung, pancreatic, oral, and colon cancer cells have CB1 and CB2 receptors. Abnormal immune cells in blood cancers such as leukemia also have CB1 and CB2 receptors. Some breast cancers have receptors for CBD. Numerous studies have found that medical marijuana has the potential to kill cancer cells.
- Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version, National Cancer Institut.
- The role of cannabinoids in prostate cancer: Basic science perspective and potential clinical applications, Juan A. Ramos and Fernando J. Bianco.
- US National Library of Medicine: A study by the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology by Virginia Commonwealth University showing that cannabinoids induce apoptosis in leukemia cells.
- US National Library of Medicine: A study showing that THC reduces the growth of liver cancer cell.
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, International Journal of Cancer.
- Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents, Guzman, M., 2003.
- Cannabinoids for Medical Use. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
- Cannabinoids inhibit cellular respiration of human oral cancer cells, Whyte DA, Al-Hammadi S, Balhaj G, Brown OM, Penefsky HS, Souid AK.
- Study showing that THC: CBD extract is effective for relief of advanced cancer pain not fully relieved by strong opioids, Johnson JR, Burnell-Nugent M, Lossignol D, Ganae-Motan ED, Potts R, Fallon MT.