Is Cannabis A Cure For Cancer?
Does cannabis treat cancer? Does cannabis kill cancer cells? Does it cure cancer?
We posed those questions, in that order, to one of the most knowledgeable people on Earth: Dr. Robert Melamede, a University of Colorado biology professor and world-renowned cannabis researcher.
We also painstakingly reviewed dozens of preclinical studies on cannabis. Our goal is to understand whether cannabis could be the kiss of death for cancer and a panacea for the most feared diseases on the planet.
There is no question that marijuana treats cancer symptoms, such as pain, inflammation, and nausea. The database for the National Institutions of Health has more than enough peer-reviewed studies to support this conclusion.
So let’s move on. Life is short. No need to beat around the bush.
In studies of lab tissue cultures, and preclinical trials with animals, particularly mice, the NIH medical publishers database also offers plenty of evidence that cannabis kills cancer cells while protecting normal cells.
Now for the Big Question: Does cannabis cure cancer in people?
A Miracle Cure?
“I’ve seen cures occur,” Dr. Bob said. “The most obvious ones are with skin cancer,” notably two types – basel and squamous cell carcinoma. Here, however, is where the NIH pub-med database fails.
There’s not one clinical trial of cannabis and skin cancer. Or cannabis and any other cancer. No surprise that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis for the treatment of any known medical condition.
“Topical application of Rick Simpson oil, basically, on a variety of skin cancers is very effective,” Dr. Bob said. “Once you see that happen a few times, you don’t particularly care if it’s gone through a clinical trial, especially if you’re one of those persons.”
Clinical studies on cannabis and people for decades focused on the potential dangers, and only more recently, the plant’s ability to treat cancer symptoms, but not the disease itself.
Without any clinical trials, the evidence that cannabis cures cancer in people is almost entirely anecdotal stories from medical marijuana patients who insist they benefitted from the plant.
“There are over 900 peer-reviewed articles showing that cannabinoids, in one form or another – phyto from the plant, endo from within, synthetics – that these cannabinoids have cancer-killing capacity,” said Dr. Bob.
How significant are those preclinical studies with tissue cultures and lab animals?
“How much evidence do you need to suggest that this is powerful stuff?” Dr. Bob asked. “Instead the morons around the world and in our government say, “Oh, we can’t study it properly,’ or ‘It’s too dangerous’ or ‘What about the children?’ …
“I’ve seen cannabis treat leukemias, lymphomas, stomach cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer. But it doesn’t mean it works on all of those all the time. I’ve seen successes with those various cancers, and I’ve also seen failures,” he said.
In one of the most recent preclinical studies, cannabis was also found effective against colon cancer.
Researchers outside of the U.S., notably in Spain and Israel, are apparently confirming that cannabinoids destroy cancer cells in humans. Similar research on people has been impossible in America since the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug with no known medical use and a high potential for abuse.
So is it possible to know if cannabis is a potential miracle cure? There is a compelling puzzle to this piece. It’s called the endogenous cannabinoid system – more commonly referred to as the endocannabinoid system, which exists in all animal life.
Regulating The Body’s Regulator
One of the most profound advances in human health occurred in the late 1980s when researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system. Furthering our understanding of it could lead to cures for all forms of cancer.
“It literally regulates everything in your body,” Dr. Bob said. “So when you’re able to regulate that which regulates everything, you have profound outcomes. Outcomes like people leaving hospice care because they’re not dying anymore. When you see and experience enough of these stories, you’d be stupid not to believe it.”
Cannabinoids attack cancer cells by preventing inflammation in surrounding tissue by causing cell death, by blocking cell growth, by halting the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors, and by boosting the immune system with antiviral activity.
The human body strives to maintain a stable balance within our cells, tissues and organs. This is called homeostasis. Our endocannabinoid system resists and, if necessary, corrects changes that threaten this balance.
How precisely does it do that?
By internally creating cannabinoids – anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These molecules bind with receptors on the surface of cells throughout our bodies.
Two cannabinoid receptors have been officially identified, CB1 and CB2. There are reportedly at least two more being investigated. CB1 is found primarily in the nervous system, organs, glands, and connective tissue. CB2 is predominant in the immune system. Many tissues have both of these protein molecules.
Cannabis contains phytocannabinoids – phyto because they come from a plant. The most relevant to cancer are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC and CDB are known to be interchangeable with anandamide. That’s a crucial reason why cannabis is highly effective medicine. Ingesting those two cannabinoids strengthens our endocannabinoid system. But that’s not all.
THC and CBD act directly on cancerous lesions and tumors, causing the death of abnormal cells by disrupting their mitochondria and choking off blood supply. CBD also inhibits the enzyme that breaks down anandamide, so more of the body’s natural defenses can get in on the action.
This is really important stuff when considering cannabis as a potential cure for cancer, but it’s also important to overall health. Cannabinoids are involved in controlling activities in the brain, which has implications for memory and degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s; and in nerves, metabolism, the circulatory system (especially heart function), and in reproduction.
The antioxidant properties of cannabis may even slow the aging process. But June is Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s get back on topic.
Currently, cannabis extracts that are high in CBD have created a medicinal marijuana buzz in mainstream America, which is being fueled by the media. Since CBD does not get anyone stoned, why not load up on that cannabinoid as a cancer cure?
Not so fast, Dr. Bob said.
Don’t Dismiss THC
Melamede said that the most effective cannabis cancer treatments, like those advocated by the Phoenix Tears Foundation, strike a balance between CBD and THC. “From what we’ve seen, there’s always THC in there.”
“Based on the activity of the CB1 receptor and of CBD, I can see circumstances where high levels of CBD could be detrimental,” Dr. Bob speculated. In his experience, the most effective extracts have 80 percent THC and around 5 percent CBD. There are ways to counteract THC’s high, he said.
Dr Bob also pointed out that cancers can be divided into two basic types; “drug- sensitive cancers that can be killed, and drug-resistant cancers that kill you.”
“It looks like cannabis can kill both types, which is what makes it so powerful and unique,” he said. “It gets very complicated explaining precisely why cannabis can kill those cancers that kill you.”
He said it has to do with its influence on the underlying energy-producing mechanism of the cancerous cell. “There are whole lot of biological issues going on here, but the bottom line is that cannabis can get rid of a number of cancers very effectively and painlessly.”
Dr. Bob said that people using conventional treatments, like chemotherapy, should add cannabis to their medical regimen for its “health enhancing and protective nature.”
And what if Dr. Bob had cancer?
“First thing I would do – if I had time – I would go on cannabis alone and see if that worked,” he said. If it didn’t work, he’d add chemo and perhaps radiation treatment along with cannabis.
“Cannabis has neural protective properties, which could be very important if, for example, you’re getting your brain irradiated,” he said. “It’s a health- promoting herb.”
When CB1 receptors are removed from mice – knockout mice, they’re called – those rodents become ill and die prematurely. Clearly cannabinoids are necessary for good health.
“On the other end of the spectrum, when [anti-cannabis researchers] wanted to show how bad THC was, they fed mice really high quantities for years. It turned out the mice lived longer and had fewer tumors,” Dr. Bob said.
The endocannabinoid system, which is most evolved in humans, gives vertebrate species an advantage over other life forms – insects, for example – when it comes to Darwinian adaptation. And that ability to
adapt, said Dr. Bob, extends to human consciousness.
Cannabis alters human perceptions and behavior, often promoting creativity, humor, and receptiveness to new and different ideas. “Open-mindedness,” said Dr. Bob. “And the fact that it’s an anti-aging drug, and inhibits cancers, that’s reality. I didn’t make up the science and that’s how I see the science.”
Can Dr. Bob see a future where all cancers are curable, and ultimately preventable?
“I think as we learn more about what life is and what health is, as people increase their endocannabinoid activity through diet, for instance with omega fatty acids and fish oil, they’re going to supplement with the plant,” he said.
“And the consequences are going to be profound.”