You’ve probably heard about cannabis health benefits. Cannabinoids such as CBD are good for anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain, among others. But recently, researchers are trying to prove that cannabis, more specifically CBD, might have another medicinal benefit, one that could actually change the world: kill cancer cells. So far, CBD oil for cancer is a popular alternative treatment for cancer symptoms and chemotherapy side effects. But, what does research and studies have to say about that?

Every 4th of February, the world joins together in a single digital voice to raise cancer awareness. World Cancer Day was first introduced in 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millenium.

#IAm&IWill is the main theme of this year’s World Cancer Day. And they want to ask you two simple questions. Who are you? And what would you do? The whole idea of this year’s theme is not only to raise awareness, but to encourage people to take action. Speak up, create change, get informed, love harder. But why is there a need to raise awareness?

According to the Cancer Research, there were approximately 17 million new cases of cancer worldwide. Last year, more than nine million people died from cancer. The number of new cases of cancer is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year. Also, the number of cancer deaths is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year. The National Cancer Institute states that the five most common types cancers are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung and bronchus cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colon and rectum cancer

Evenmore, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.

Marijuana and cancer

During the past decade, the has been a grown interest among the scientific community about the possible effects of cannabinoids in cancer. Although there is much debate, there are some studies that not only suggest cannabis, and more specifically, CBD oil, as a possible treatment for cancer symptoms, but also a cure because of its antitumor properties.

So on this World Cancer Day, at WellBeing Essence we want you to take action. We want you to read this post and find out how cannabis could improve the quality life of cancer patients.  

Cannabis cancer research: what have studies found?

It is not that hard to find information about cannabis and cancer. But what it is not that easy is to find cannabis cancer research, clinical and preclinical trials to support how cannabis can be a possible treatment for cancer symptoms or even cancer itself. Although there is a lot of promise, as you will see in the following studies, there is still no conclusive data.

Cannabidiol as potential anticancer drug (2013)

In this study, published in 2013 by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, italian scientists reviewed the efficacy of CBD in different types of cancer. They highlighted the importance of CBD as an alternative therapeutic agent. They concluded that even though there is still a lot of research ahead to fully understand cannabidiols potential, “evidence is emerging to suggest that CBD is a potent inhibitor of both cancer growth and spread”.

Cannabidiol inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms (2012)

Italians are very interested in proving that CBD actually can be an alternative cancer treatment.  Researchers evaluated the effects of CBD in cells obtained from the umbilical cord. After conducting several tests, they concluded that “CBD inhibits angiogenesis by multiple mechanisms. Its dual effect on both tumour and endothelial cells supports the hypothesis that CBD has potential as an effective agent in cancer therapy”.

Cannabinoid-induced apoptosis in immune cells as a pathway to immunosuppression (2010)

Scientists in this 2010 research stated that, in optimal concentrations, cannabinoids can induce apoptosis (cell death). In cancer treatments, the idea is to make cancer cells die without harming normal cells. Scientists stated that cannabinoids, such as CBD, can induce apoptosis in immune cells, “alleviating inflammatory responses and protecting the host from acute and chronic inflammation”. Furthermore, this means that cannabinoids can work as a immunosuppression treatment. For patients with autoimmune disease, like arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis, this finding suggests cannabis as a treatment.

Cannabinoids for control of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (2001)

This was probably one of the first studies that was aiming to prove how cannabis could be use to treat some of cancer treatment side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. After analysing their results, researchers found that patients preferred cannabinoids for future chemotherapy. Patients tended to experience side effects such as what we normally call “the high”, sedation or drowsiness and euphoria. Other harmful side effects occur more often, like dizziness, depression and high blood pressure. Scientists concluded that cannabinoids “may be useful as mood enhancing adjuvants for controlling chemotherapy related sickness”.

The current state and future perspectives of cannabinoids in cancer biology (2018)

This is the latest scientific review on cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer, published in early 2018. Researchers from Poland reviewed almost all current evidence regarding cancer and cannabis. They also included in their review ongoing clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids as anticancer agents. After going through all that data, they concluded three things.

  • A lack of profound safety and efficacy clinical trials. They express in their conclusions how difficult or even impossible it is to assess the potential benefits and risks of using cannabis.
  • Lack of detail in ways of administration, dosages, interactions with other drugs and adverse side effects.
  • Lack of easy accessible biomarkers showing the responsiveness of patients to a cannabinoid treatment.

In conclusion, scientists argue that, based on research until 2018, cannabinoids do show antitumor activity in cell lines and in animal models of cancer. However, there is not enough data “concerning efficacy and safety”. As it often happens with cannabis, there is need for more thorough research.

What do cancer authorities have to say

Anecdotal evidence and media have brought cannabis to the map. And when early studies were being published, cancer organizations were obliged to at least take a quick look on what all the fuss was about.

And believe it or not, some of them actually have a really nice approach to the subject.

The National Cancer Institute describes on their website the benefits of cannabinoids and how they affect cancer cells. “Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite caused by cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies”. They also have on their website that “cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects”. The site also shares some of the studies that we previously discussed above.

The American Cancer Society also shares a similar point of view. Although they recognize the research available and how promising it is, they also acknowledge the “need for more scientific research on cannabinoids for cancer patients”. More importantly, they recognize that the classification of cannabis as a Schedule and controlled substance by the DEA makes it really difficult for researchers to access and study phytocannabinoids. They finish with a pretty convincing argument: “Federal officials should examine options consistent with federal law for enabling more scientific study on marijuana”.

On the other hand, World Wide Cancer Research is a little more skeptical. It seems that they don’t want to get their hands dirty in such a delicate subject. Although they admit there is some evidence that cannabis might help with cancer symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, “we cannot yet say for sure”.

There is promise, but nothing certain

Although cannabis and cannabinoids have multiple health benefits, when it comes to cancer there’s still a lot of research to do. Millions of people and families are trying to find alternative treatments to help deal with the pain and symptoms that come with cancer. And off course cannabis has caught the attention of many.

Sativex, or nabiximols, is a mouth spray and one of the cannabis FDA approved drugs. It was approved in 2010 in the United Kingdom. It helps with neuropathic pain and other multiple sclerosis symptoms. It’s concentration is 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD. On 2017, scientists conducted a research to see if Sativex could be a therapy for advanced cancer patients with chronic pain. The idea was to prove that cannabis could be a replacement for opioid therapy. But after completing the tests, scientists found that “Sativex did not demonstrate superiority to placebo in reducing self-reported pain”.

CBD oil, capsules and tinctures

CBD oil for cancer is also used to treat some symptoms such as nausea. The best way to administer is under the tongue, this is why most CBD oils come in a sublingual presentación. Also, tinctures can be administered under the tongue. Tinctures are usually soaked in alcohol. However, they tend to have less cannabinoid concentration than pure oil. Capsules are also a good option because concentration is so much easier to measure. If you come across capsules, always look for CBD and THC concentration.

Although cannabis, and more specifically CBD, has numerous therapeutic properties, when it comes to cancer there is nothing certain. It is a fact that cannabis can not cure cancer just it self. However, medicinal properties of certain cannabinoids can help deal with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and even pain. It is always recommended to consult with your doctor before starting any cannabis related treatment.

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