Cannabis and Cancer

Seriously... Consider Cannabis

Many Americans are suffering with cancer and the sometimes brutal side effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation treatments. It is well documented that Cannabis is a safe and effective way to treat these side effects. Further more, some of the prescription medicine given to these very patients contain forms of Cannabis in them.

The cannabinoids drug THC (THC is an extract from the Cannabis plant) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in relieving nausea and vomiting and increasing appetite in people with cancer and AIDS. Testing of other Cannabis extracts is still waiting approval from the FDA. 

Cannabis and Cancer: Cannabis has been found to help cancer patients with pain and nausea, and recent research indicates it has tumor-reducing and anti-carcinogenic properties properties as well. It has proven highly effective at controlling the nausea associated with chemotherapy, and its appetite-stimulation properties help combat wasting. Studies have identified many biologically active components in Cannabis called cannabinoids. The two main components are the chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). Currently Cannabis is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any medical use. But the use of Cannabis to treat some medical conditions is legal under state laws in many states. It is important to note, Dronabinol, a pharmaceutical form of THC, and a man-made cannabinoid drug called Nabilone are approved by the FDA for treatment of some conditions.

Different compounds in Cannabis have separate effects on the body and can effect each person differently. THC seems to cause a “high” and help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant. It can cause some anxiety and paranoia. CBD can help treat seizures and can reduce anxiety and paranoia caused by THC. Different strains or types of Cannabis plants can contain varying amounts of these and other active compounds. This means that Cannabis can have different effects based on the strain used.

A number of small studies of smoked Cannabis found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. S tudies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) Cannabis can be helpful treatment of neuropathic pain. Studies have long shown that people who took Cannabis extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine. Scientists have stated that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow the growth and cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.

Cannabis Cancer Fighting Properties: More than twenty major studies published between 2001 and 2012 have shown that the chemicals in cannabis known as cannabinoids have a significant effect fighting cancer cells. We now know cannabinoids arrest many kinds of cancer growths (brain, breast, leukemic, melanoma, phaeochromocytoma) through promotion of apoptosis (programmed cell death) that is lost in tumors, and by arresting angiogenesis (increased blood vessel production). Recent scientific advances in the study of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids have produced exciting new leads in the search for anti-cancer treatments. There is growing evidence of direct anti-tumor activity of cannabinoids, specifically CB1 and CB2 agonists, in a range of cancer types including brain (gliomas), skin, pituitary, prostate and bowel. 

The antitumor activity has led in laboratory animals and in-vitro human tissues to regression of tumors, reductions in vascularization (blood supply) and metastases (secondary tumors), as well as direct inducement of death (apoptosis) among cancer cells. Indeed, the complex interactions of endogenous cannabinoids and receptors are leading to greater scientific understanding of the mechanisms by which cancers develop.  The findings of these studies are borne out by the reports of such patients as Steve Kubby, whose cannabis use is credited with keeping a rare, terminal cancer in a state of remission for decades beyond conventional expectations.  

Cannabis and Tumor Reduction: Although cannabis smoke has been shown to have precancerous-causing effects in animal tissue, epidemiological studies on humans have failed to link cannabis smoking with cancer. If smoke inhalation is a concern, cannabis can be used with a vaporizer, orally in baked goods, and topically as a tincture or a suppository.

Cannabinoids, the active components of cannabis, have been shown to exhibit anti-tumor properties. Multiple studies published between 2001 and 2010 found that cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animals. In another study, injections of synthetic THC eradicated malignant brain tumors in one-third of treated rats, and prolonged life in another third by as much as six weeks. Other journals have also reported on cannabinoids' antitumoral potential. Italian research teams reported in 1998 and 2001 that the endocannabinoid anandamide, which binds to the same brain receptors as cannabis, "potently and selectively inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in vitro" by interfering with their DNA production cycle. Cannabis has been shown in recent studies to inhibit the growth of thyroid, prostate and colorectal cancer cells. THC has been found to cause the death of glioma cells. And research on pituitary cancers shows cannabinoids are key to regulating human pituitary hormone secretion. 

Cannabis Compared to Other Medicine: The American Cancer Society lists 269 medicines currently prescribed to treat cancer and its symptoms, and to treat the side effects of other cancer drugs. Some drugs are prescribed for pain caused by cancer. Cancer patients have reported more pain relief with cannabis therapy as apposed to prescription medication. Many chemotherapy agents cause severe nausea and 13 drugs are currently prescribed to treat nausea, including Marinol, a synthetic form of delta-9-THC, one of the active ingredients in cannabis.

The newer antiemetics, Anzamet, Kytril and Zofran, are serotonin antagonists, blocking the neurotransmitter that sends a vomiting signal to the brain. Rare side effects of these drugs include fever, fatigue, bone pain, muscle aches, constipation, loss of appetite, inflammation of the pancreas, changes in electrical activity of heart, vivid dreams, sleep problems, confusion, anxiety and facial swelling. Reglan, a substituted benzamide, increases emptying of the stomach, thus decreasing the chance of developing nausea and vomiting due to food remaining in the stomach. Side effects include sleepiness, restlessness, diarrhea and dry mouth. Rarer side effects are rash, hives and decreased blood pressure. Haldol and Inapsine are tranquilizers that block messages to the part of the brain responsible for nausea and vomiting. Possible side effects include decreased breathing rate, increased heart rate, decrease in blood pressure when changing position and, rarely, change in electrical activity of the heart. ompazine and Torecan are phenothiazines, the first major anti-nausea drugs. Both have tranquilizing effects. Common side effects include dry mouth and constipation. Less common effects are blurred vision, restlessness, involuntary muscle movements, tremors, increased appetite, weight gain, increased heart rate and changes in electrical activity of heart. Rare side effects include jaundice, rash, hives and increased sensitivity to sunlight.

Cannabis... by comparison, the side effects associated with cannabis are typically mild and are classified as "low risk." Euphoric mood changes are among the most frequent side effects.  Cannabinoids can exacerbate schizophrenic psychosis in predisposed persons.  Cannabinoids impede cognitive and psychomotor performance, resulting in temporary impairment. In summary, a low risk profile is evident from the medical tests and available literature. Serious complications are very rare during the use of cannabinoids for medical indications.

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