Medical Marijuana: The Future Of Breast Cancer Therapy?
Breast cancer is the most common cancer form in women around the world. According to statistics it represents 22.9% of all cancer cases in women worldwide. In 2008, breast cancer caused over 450,000 deaths in the world.
The knowledge of the healing properties of marijuana dates from thousands of years ago, but the therapeutic effect of cannabinoids in cancer therapies was recently discovered. Cannabinoids are medical compounds found in marijuana.
Ever since the late 90s’ and to this day, many preclinical studies have proven the anticancer effect of cannabinoids in the treatment of different types of cancer.
According to studies, cannabinoid receptors are over-expressed in tumor cells of some cancer types, including liver, lung, prostate and breast cancer. It is believed by researchers that the endocannabinoid system can be regulated in an innate biological effort to stop the disease.
It’s been also shown that once cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they inhibit cancer growth by preventing the proliferation of cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, or cancer cell death. They can also impair both tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.
Even though there are medical findings that have shown progression, there are still certain breast tumors are resistant to the conventional treatments.
According to researchers, synthetic cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (mostly THC and CBD) can be effective in treating breast cancer subtypes, and the strongest evidence of their therapeutic potential points to the treatment of HER2-positive and triple-negative breast tumor types.
The power of cannabis is especially important to patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, meaning no conventional therapy can help them and the prognosis for these patients is still poor. Moreover, studies suggest that cannabinoids are much safer and less toxic than conventional treatments. They don’t affect normal healthy cells and the only side-effects are dizziness and fatigue.
“This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.” – Dr. Sean McAllister.
Dr. Sean McAllister and his team of researchers were some of the first experts to discover that CBD’s anti-cancer properties can be effectively used in the treatment of breast cancer back in 2007.
According to the research, cannabinoids provide a wide range of benefits in cancer treatments, including prevention of vomiting and nausea that appear as a result of chemotherapy and treatments that reduce cancer-associated pain, and when they’re combined with conventional treatments, cannabinoids can induce a synergistic effect against cancer cells. This means that by combining conventional and cannabinoid treatments you get more powerful results than the application of each treatment alone.
Unfortunately, the studies are limited to preclinical trials that involve cell cultures and laboratory animals. They need further preclinical trials to identify the target group that is most appropriate to receive a cannabinoid-based treatment, and which cannabinoids are the best option for patients before these trials can develop further into a clinical stage. Until then, oncology professionals could prescribe cannabinoid medicine to patients with breast cancer regardless the fact that researchers keep asserting the need for health professionals to be more aware of these cannabinoid studies.
The Oncology Nursing Forum published an update in 2013 where associate editor Susan Weiss Behrend gave her conclusion:
“…cannabinoids have demonstrated antitumor activity in preclinical breast cancer models. Practicing oncology professionals need to be aware of the clinical potential of these agents…” – Susan Weiss Behrend, RN
For those who don’t have an access to medical marijuana it is good to know that cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals like Marinol and Cesamet (synthetic THC, oral capsules) are available to patients diagnosed with cancer, and they are essential for the treatment of nausea which occurs as a result of the chemo treatments. Canada has approved Sativex, a natural-cannabinoid derived mouth spray that is used by cancr patients to treat pain.
It is safe to say that cancer patients can be optimistic regarding the future of cancer studies and the importance of marijuana treatments.