Do you know someone with cancer? With nearly 40% of Americans diagnosed with some form of cancer, it is no surprise that a large number of Americans will be impacted by the disease in some way.
Could cannabis be the cure? Doctors specializing in cancer treatment seem to think so. Studies show that oncologists are more willing to recommend cannabis as part of a treatment program than any other type of doctor. Many are aware of the well-documented effects of cannabis to relieve cancer symptoms, and put patients first, even if the U.S. government continues to classify it as a Schedule I drug. This means the government says cannabis has no medical use, and will likely be abused. This archaic position prevents the medical community from completing the necessary research to understand how cannabis impacts cancer.
The large amounts of misinformation about marijuana’s effect on cancer have only further encouraged the position of the federal government. While it is clear that cannabis impacts cancer in some way, pseudoscience cancer quacks’ claims of it being a miracle cure do not help them take it seriously. By exaggerating claims that cannabis has helped unsubstantiated numbers of cancer patients, it makes it easy for officials to continue to claim it has no medicinal value.
Is cannabis the miracle cancer cure that some people claim?
Dr. Abrams, a leading oncologist, cancer researcher, and cannabis advocate says we should be critical of the word, “cure.” According to Abrams, cure “implies that the patient has survived 5 years without evidence of their cancer.” He further explains, that based on this definition, doctors have cured more cancers than before. He credits this increase to advancements in diagnosis and conventional treatments.
Dr. Abrams has worked in integrative medicine for more than thirty years. Based out of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Mount Zion in San Francisco, he specializes in cancer treatments. During his time there, he reported that a “large proportion” of his patients also used cannabis. While believing it helped his patients, he cautions marijuana enthusiast with this observation, “If cannabis definitively cured cancer, I would have expected that I would have a lot more survivors.”
Dr. Abrams also says that cannabis is an “amazing medicine” for the side effects caused by the condition and its treatments. Cannabis is generally accepted by the medical community as an effective option for treating symptoms such as vomiting, pain, loss of appetite, nausea, depression, insomnia and anxiety. However, whether it can also cure cancer is still being debated.
Online Cancer Cures
Many people are impacted by cancer, and naturally want to believe that cannabis can cure it. It’s not very hard to find stories online of people who cured or reversed their cancer by using cannabis oil.
Dr. Abrams reminds readers than many of those people also used conventional therapies, in addition to cannabis oil. He encourages those who have experienced success with any cancer (other than skin cancer) to document it properly and submit their data to the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Therapy’s Best Case Scenario website. Doing so could better document potential cures.
He also insists that many online articles exaggerate claims, omit key facts or misrepresent studies.
The Need for More Research
New studies around the anti-cancer potential of cannabis are continuing to emerge, offering promising leads. This research into cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids may demonstrate whether cannabinoids can inhibit or stop cancer growths. Cannabis may prevent the growth of a variety of cancers, including brain, breast, pheochromocytoma, liver, melanoma, and leukemia. Cannabinoids may also do much more by promoting apoptosis, which is the programmed death of tumor cells while simultaneously stopping angiogenesis – blood vessel production to the tumor – literally starving the tumor of blood.
There’s even a study, by Madrid’s Complutense University, that revealed that synthetic THC eliminated malignant brain tumors in a third of the rats treated in the study, and extended the lives of another third.
The research is all very promising, but unfortunately, they are all preclinical studies, meaning they’ve only been done on animals so far. Unfortunately, we cannot claim it is a cure until clinical research on humans is completed.
Plus, since cancer is actually a group of diseases that all include abnormal cell growth, it is unlikely that cannabis could be a cure-all. What may be necessary is a combination of synthetic cannabinoid agonists or naturally-derived cannabinoids combined with traditional chemotherapeutic regimens. However, for this to ever happen, more rigorous studies must be completed. This likely will not take place until medical cannabis is no longer federally illegal.
In the meanwhile, the federally funded National Cancer Institute has acknowledged the possibility of cannabis killing cancer cells based on preclinical studies. The federal government, however, has not made significant efforts to align the law with the experience of the scientific community and a growing number of Americans.
Across America, an increasing number of people are supporting medical marijuana. One can only hope that the federal government can modify its prohibitory stance so that those that need cannabis to cure their cancer will no longer have to rely on questionable sources.