The link between cannabinoids and cancer is one of the most exciting and promising research areas in modern medicine. And yet cannabinoids have been used in medicine for at least a century. But the recent interest in their therapeutic value is related to investigations which suggest that they can slow down or even block cancer growth. Other studies have suggested cannabis can even kill cancer cells. This week, another investigation into cannabinoids and cannabis is making headlines and raising the question again: can cannabis help cure cancer?
The Latest Research On Cannabinoids and Cancer
If you’ve been following the headlines on cannabis and cancer, then you know how often writers present it as a “miracle cure.” But it’s important to make a key distinction. Sometimes the headlines exaggerate or mislead folks about exactly how cannabis can help in the fight against cancer.
Currently, the most widespread and accepted use of cannabis as a cancer treatment is as what’s called an “antiemetic.” In other words, as a medicine that’s effective against vomiting and nausea. Cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation therapy experience intense vomiting and nausea as side effects. These cancer treatments can also be very painful.
Cannabis is a proven antiemetic and pain-reliever. So it helps with the side-effects of the battle against cancer. But it may not necessarily fight cancer cells themselves.
Or so we thought. The latest research on marijuana and cancer has discovered something astounding.
As described above, medical cannabis patients often use marijuana after chemotherapy to treat the side-effects. But researchers have discovered that cannabinoids, the active chemicals in cannabis like CBD and THC, actually are killing cancer cells.
According to Science Daily, researchers concluded that chemotherapy and cannabis formed a potent “one-two punch” against luekemia cells. By first taking a dose of chemotherapy, and then a medical dose of cannabinoids, patients saw improved results overall.
The researchers’ findings have important implications in the link between cannabinoids and cancer. If combining cannabis and chemotherapy is better than using chemotherapy alone, cancer patients could potentially take lower doses of chemo. As a result, patients would have less intense side-effects.
Cannabinoids and Chemotherapy Form A Potent Cancer-Killing Combo
We’re still combing through the specifics of the study, which was recently published in the International Journal of Oncology. Dr. Wai Liu, an experienced medical marijuana researcher, led a team at the University of London in the UK.
They studied a variety of cannabinoid and chemotherapy drugs, including cytarabine and vincristine. Besides the different combinations, they also experimented with different sequences of administering them.
The specifics of their findings point to an exciting future for the study of cannabinoids and cancer.
In the first place, Dr. Liu and his team found that the two major cannabinoids, THC and CBD, were both effective in combination with chemotherapy. But when they were used together, the effect improved dramatically.
Interestingly enough, these findings support the notion of the “entourage effect,” or the idea the cannabinoids work best in conjunction and shouldn’t be isolated. In short, they have to work together. But it’s also important, according to the study, to use extremely potent, concentrated solutions of cannabinoids. Just smoking cannabis won’t have the same effect.
But Dr. Liu’s team also made another important finding. According to their report, you have to administer the cannabinoids after chemotherapy. For some reason, the cannabinoids were much less potent against the leukemia cells before a dose of chemo.
Cannabinoids and Cancer: The Cure?
Dr. Liu is extremely optimistic about the prospect of long-term research into the cannabinoids and cancer. If cannabinoids can reliably increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, current treatments could be more successful with fewer side-effects. The result could be a life-altering anticancer treatment for the people suffering from this dreadful disease.
Dr. Liu and his team’s study takes is place alongside decades of research into the relation between cannabinoids and cancer. So it’s important not to overstate the significance of the new study.
Leukemia is only one type of cancer. And what might work against one type might not for another. Back in 2004, for example, researchers in Germany published a study in Cancer Research which found that THC actually accelerated the growth, not the death, of cancer cells, and “thereby contribute to cancer progression in patients.” Nevertheless, this study also acknowledges the many studies that point to the effectiveness of cannabinoids as part of a broad approach to cancer treatment
Given the diverse, and sometimes adverse effects of medical cannabis on cancer, it’s impossible to overstate the significance of all of this research.