Cannabis as Treatment for Brain Cancer
Cancer research has long been trying to find some chemical that will kill cancer cells without killing the other cells in the body and, at least for brain cancer, they may have found it. While clinical trials on humans are still awaiting results, research gives hope that THC could be an effective, natural tumor killer.
Cannabis and Brain Cancer
For nearly two decades, a group of Spanish researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid has been looking for cannabis-based cancer treatments. They’re testing the ability to kill glioma cells, which make up 80% of all malignant brain cancers, with cannabinoid treatments. Gliomas are one of the most aggressive forms of cancer; once a glioblastoma reaches stage 4, life expectancy is shortened to less than two years with surgeries and traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.
With such a grim diagnosis, the importance of finding alternative treatments increases. This team, however, is finding more success than many thought possible. In the early 2000s, the group applied extracted THC to glioblastoma cells that were cultured outside of the body. The tumor cells then stopped growing, shocking researchers and the world.
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These incredible researchers discovered that THC kills glioblastoma cells by cutting off the tumor’s blood supply and causing cancer cells to kill themselves.
Starved to Death
A study conducted in 2004, discovered that cannabis alters genes that produce the compound Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), which helps grow new blood vessels. When cancer cells start to get large, they need to create their own blood vessels.
The team of Spanish researchers treated mice and two hum brain cancer patients with medicines containing cannabinoids. In both models, they found VEGF to be reduced, limiting the tumors’ blood supply and a groundbreaking discovery was made.
They also found that cannabinoids may have the ability to kill cancer cells. Compounds found in cannabis prevented tumor growth, cut off the tumors’ blood supply effectively starving them, and eventually causing cancer cells to self-destruct, in a form of what scientists refer to as “programmed cell death.”
CANNABIS CAN BE HELPFUL TO DECREASE BRAIN TUMORS. PHOTO BY @WEED.NEED
There are two ways programmed cell death occurs: apoptosis and autophagy. When a cell becomes too old or damaged, the body uses apoptosis and autophagy to eliminate the rogue cell.
Cancer cells, however, are a little different. They don’t die; they just keep on growing and growing, creating tumors. In this study, the group discovered that THC actually caused cancer cells to “auto-digest themselves,” undergoing autophagy.
The fascinating and terrific thing is that this cell death only happens to the problematic cancer cells. Normal cells are left alone and unharmed. Cannabinoids kill cancer cells by utilizing both mechanisms of programmed cell death (autophagy and apoptosis).
Clinical Trials on the Horizon
The team of Spanish researchers is working on conducting a larger trial that will include 30-40 glioma patients in a handful of Spanish hospitals. The Complutense University of Madrid teamed up with the hospitals to allow for the administration of cannabis treatments and subsequent testing of the efficacy, the first time something like this will be done at this large of a scale in a hospital setting.
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In 2006, this same research team conducted a pilot study with only nine glioblastoma patients that only looked at THC that was administered intracranially, meaning directly into the brain. Going forward, the cannabinoid medications will be administered in other ways.
This study looked at patients who were unresponsive to conventional treatments and had already had their tumors surgically removed. After surgery, most patients lived an average of 24 weeks, even with THC administration, but there were two patients that continued to live for another year. This showed that THC had the potential to slow the progression of tumor cells temporarily.
Eight out of the nine patients showed positive responses to the THC treatment, giving hope for the larger trial to come.
Using Cannabis to Treat Brain Cancer
No studies have been conducted as of yet on the efficacy of cannabis medicines alone in the treatment of cancer, creating a couple of problems like doctors not knowing how much cannabis should be used or which strains are best.
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There are no simple answers when it comes to using cannabis to treat cancer. Because we are unsure of how much cannabis it takes to achieve results, We know it has the power to be an extremely effective cancer treatment, but we currently have no way of knowing how much it will take to be effective for each specific individual case.
Dr. William Courtney, a strong advocate for raw cannabis, has effectively treated many with his cannabis regimes, but one, in particular, stands out amongst the rest. His youngest patient, an eight-month-old baby with brain cancer, was treated with high-CBD cannabis oil and his brain tumor actually disappeared, keeping the baby from ever having to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.
Jermy Kigar, a dietitian, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 astrocytoma in the cerebellum after collapsing and having a seizure in a patient’s room. Kigar went the route of chemotherapy and radiation, losing his hair and developing many other severe side effects like Chron’s Disease, but cannabis helped him overcome these symptoms.
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After he started the cannabis treatment, his tumor dropped from a grade 4 to a grade 2. He increased his dose to a gram each day in 90-day cycles, which led him to eventually quit taking his oral chemotherapy medication and start using cannabis as the primary treatment. His tumor has been slowly decreasing thanks to his use of high-CBD cannabis oil.
Kelly was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was only 38. She underwent surgery and spent her 19th wedding anniversary in the ICU. The surgery was temporarily effective, but the tumor came back within a few years.
She chose to go with cannabis oil instead of undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, due to their harsh, long-term side effects. She slowly worked herself up to the same dosage Kigar did (one gram each day in 90-day cycles). She went for a high-THC variety because THC is thought to be the most effective for brain tumors.
She saw significant tumor reduction as well as her headaches and fibromyalgia pain that she had experienced for years.
Not everyone can expect miracle cures from cannabis treatments, but evidence suggests that cannabis medicines can be effective and are right around the corner from being easily accessible to all.