Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most important intoxicating substance in cannabis, is sometimes used in cancer treatments, with the main goal of improving the patient’s quality of life (pain, lack of appetite nausea, etc).
Research has demonstrated that THC influences cells from a human glioma (an aggressive brain tumor) by setting in motion apoptosis (programmed self-destruction) that will kill the tumor cells effectively and without damaging other cells.
Apoptosis is a process whereby a cell starts depleting itself and this does not happen with healthy cells. Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most common cannabinoid in cannabis, appears to support and strengthen this effect.
THC also appears to have an anti-invasive effect. This means that it will prevent the spreading of altered tumor-like cells to nearby tissue and this could be useful for extremely invasive cancer sorts.
The tumor-encapsulating effect caused by THC and other synthetic and natural cannabinoids does not only work on glioma. The effect was also shown for a wide variety of other cancer types when tested on animals and human cell structures.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) shows a distinct anti-breast cancer activity through apoptosis (tumor cells start self-destructing) so the same effect was shown for cannabigerol and cannabichromene.
- The endogene (substances that originate from within an organism) anandamide has an anti-proliferating (= attacks the cancer cell growth) and apoptotic effect on the human prostate cancer cell culture.
- Cannabinoids also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce the development of cancers in the first place. The inflammation response is linked to 15 to 20% of cancer deaths worldwide.
Cannabis Smoke like tobacco smoke holds a lot of cancer-causing substances (aromatic hydrocarbon, nitrosamines, aldehydes, etc.) some of them even in high concentrations. More carbon monoxide and tar are ingested when smoking cannabis than when smoking tobacco. Synthetic cannabinoid methanandamide was demonstrated can strengthen the growth of lung cancer cells.
Possible cancer treatments based on cannabis should be developed following a classical chemotherapy treatment model, meaning a focus on the identification and distribution, and ingestion of the active components.
We must at all times prevent the patient from smoking cannabinoids now that we are aware of the dangers of this ingestion method.
Until today there is only one clinical trial known for studying the impact of cannabinoids on cancer patients.
This research dates back to 2006 and had some limitations so the main purpose was to test methods of administering (intracranial) THC.
The tests were done on patients with extremely aggressive, terminal brain tumors. Because of a limited number of test persons, a relevant conclusion about the life-prolonging effects was not possible.
Statistically not usable but remarkable because two patients with terminal brain cancer lived for about one year. When researchers took tumor cells and incubated them with THC they immediately got killed again.
Researchers concluded that more clinical trials are needed and also with other cannabinoids than THC. Quite possibly a combination of different types of cannabinoids will have the best potential for use in cancer treatment.
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