The growing popularity of cannabinoids as anticancer drugs
According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every four deaths in the United States alone results from cancer. Even more shocking, 1 out of every 6 deaths globally results from cancer. With 9.6 million deaths last year, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world.
Some Benefits of Cannabis in the Treatment of Cancer
- A report in Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry touts cannabinoids as having several positive effects on cancer patients. These marijuana compounds can retard cancerous growth in the body and inhibit the growth of new blood cells that tumors need, along with the sprea dof ney cancer cells
- During this year’s annual conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society held in Freiburg, Germany, with over 300 scientists in attendance, Italian researchers declared CBD (Cannabidiol, one of over 100 cannabinoids) as “the most efficacious inducer of apoptosis (the programmed death of cells in their natural growth-division, death life cycle)” in prostate cancer.
- British researchers at the Lancaster University echoed similar declarations concerning CBD on colon cancer.
- Investigators at St. George’s University in London also reported similar anticancer properties in THC, showing the psychoactive compound enhances the effectiveness of mainstream antileukemia therapies by inducing apoptosis.
In states in the United States (U.S.) where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use, CBD has been approved for use in the treatment of various cancer side effects. However, each compound proves to aid cancer treatment in its own unique ways. However, despite THC’s (Tetrahydrocannabinol) psychoactive effects, it too has medicinal effects.
Notable Studies on the Anticancer Properties of THC and CBD
Cannabis has been used to treat illnesses and discomfort across various parts of the world for thousands of years. However, the first scientific find on the anticancer properties of the drug came as an inadvertent discovery when Christian Sanchez, a budding biologist at Complutense University, Madrid, found that exposure of cancerous brain cells to THC lead to their capitulation.
In European journal in 1998, Sanchez found that THC induces the death of cells, referred to as apptosis, in the C6 glioma cells that are the culprit in an aggressive form of brain cancer. This claim, along with the potentials in THC for cancer-symptom management, were validated by subsequent studies across various parts of the world.
The first clinical trial of TCH’s antirumoral properties was carried out by a team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman. The study involved the placement of THC on 9 hospitalized patients with glioblastoma who were unresponsive to conventional therapies. The result of the study showed that THC significantly inhibited tumor cell proliferation in all the test subjects.
Harvard University scientists also published a similar report stating that THC “significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread,” without damaging healthy cells in any way (unlike conventional therapies that are usually toxic to some healthy cells[u1] ).
In 2007, Dr.Sean McAllister, a scientist at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, who’s been studying cannabinoid compounds for 10 years, published a detailed study of how CBD inhibits the expression of the ID-1 gene, a protein known to be a cancer cell conductor. When this gene becomes active after it’s turned off at the end of the human embryonic development, it leads to the development of malignant cells that metastasize. By inhibiting the expression of ID-1, CBD inhibits cell proliferation, tumor expansion and metastasis without damaging any healthy cell.
THC vs CBD
As noted earlier, research shows that both CBD and THC help alleviate cancer symptoms in various ways. As such, there are innumerable cannabis products that have been approved for the treatment of various cancer symptoms where cannabis is legal.
However, despite the fact that both compounds are products of the same cannabis plant, they have different effects even though they both have medicinal properties. The following is a breakdown of the unique ways each of the compounds have proved to aid cancer patients.
Effects of the THC:
- Alleviates nausea and vomiting that usually attends chemotherapy
- Stimulates appetite for optimal food intake during treatment
- Helps patients deal with the pains associated with cancer
Different Effects of CBD:
- Alleviates nausea and vomiting
- Inhibits the growth of cancer cells
- Prevents inflammation
- Moderates the division of cells, inhibiting the ability of some cells to reproduce
- Alleviates pain
The main difference between the two though, is the psychoactive effect of THC. The THC compound is responsible for the “high” that recreational users find pleasant. For medical patients, however, that “high” is generally off-putting, creating an additional layer of discomfort.
CBD, on the other hand, provides the same medical effects of THC and more, without the psychoactive effects. This makes it a more acceptable compound of the cannabis plant for the medical community.
What’s more interesting, however, is that some studies show the combination of both CBD and THC to perform even better than when they are administered separately. This is an interesting development for cancer researchers, and may lead to the psychoactive effects of THC being a non-factor.
Nevertheless, it’s best to consult your doctor first before deciding to use CBD or THC products for cancer symptom management.
In a world where cancer continues to be the deadliest disease, the search for the perfect cure and/or treatment methods continue. Traditional pharmaceutical drugs and chemotherapy generally come with unpleasant side effects that can be described as illnesses of their own. Avoiding such circumstances is the dream of cancer patients.
Cannabis has been explored as a cancer treatment alternative for its numerous medicinal effects. Studies have showed its CBD and THC compounds to be especially beneficial in this regard, in their ability to destroy and regress cancerous cell growth. The compounds are also famous for their relaxing, pain relieving effects, which are sought after by patients.
The question of which compound is better depends a lot on the patient. Where THC treats cancer also, it is famous for its psychoactive effects that patients might want to avoid. CBD, meanwhile, lacks such an effect and attacks cancer symptoms anyway. This makes its oils more desirable to the medical community and governments alike.