Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease. The one-year survival rate is 20 percent and the five-year rate is less than 7 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. But a study released last week reveals that cannabis may help extend the lives of pancreatic cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Two studies, one from Britain and the other from Canada, shed light on the promise of cannabis in combatting this debilitating disease.
A team of researchers, led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, found that mice with pancreatic cancer treated with cannabidiol (CBD) combined with chemotherapy survived nearly three times longer than those treated with chemotherapy alone. The groundbreaking study was published in the journal Oncogene.
Cannabis Oil For Cancer Side Effects
CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis, which is often consumed as an oil (cannabidiol), has previously been demonstrated to improve the harmful side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting.
“The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years because there are very few, and mostly only palliative care, treatments available,” said lead researcher Marco Falasca from Queen Mary University of London. “Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than 7 percent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed.
Another study released last week, this one from Canada, shows cannabis could be more effective than pharmaceutical drugs used for nausea. This report, published in eNeuro, also used laboratory rats as subjects. The data suggests that cannabis could potentially be developed into new anti-nausea treatments for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. The study represents an advance in understanding the neurobiology of this distressing symptom that accompanies vomiting but is not effectively treated by current drugs.
“We know a lot about the neurobiology of vomiting and how to control vomiting with anti-emetic drugs. However, nausea’s much more difficult to control with these drugs. And it persists,” said Linda Parker, a Canadian psychology professor who was part of the research team. “Finding new treatments for nausea is really critical in the quality of life of chemotherapy patients,” Parker added.
Together, these two studies from two different continents demonstrates further justification for the human testing of cannabis for cancer patients.
“If we can reproduce these effects in humans, cannabidiol could be in use in cancer clinics almost immediately, compared to having to wait for authorities to approve a new drug,” Falasca said.
Cannabis And Cancer – A Promising Future
For decades, American researchers have been stymied from human testing of cannabis because of the unscientific federal classification of the plant as a Schedule 1 drug. As more and more studies from other nations demonstrate the efficacy of cannabis as a medical treatment for cancer and other diseases, the more it seems evident that onerous federal regulations have deprived society of medical advances that are being demonstrated around the globe.
Of course, treating cancer with cannabis is not new. For decades, scientists have made the connection. More than four years ago, Martin A. Lee, founder of Project CBD, reported that “mounting evidence shows cannabinoids in marijuana slow cancer growth, inhibit formation of new blood cells that feed a tumor, and help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.”
Cannabis Treatment For Breast Cancer
Lee points to a 2007 report from Dr. Sean McAllister, a scientist at the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, suggesting that CBD kills breast cancer cells and destroys malignant tumors. “Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” McAllister said.
McAllister also is studying how CBD works in combination with traditional chemotherapy agents. His research shows that CBD acts synergistically with various anti-cancer pharmaceuticals, enhancing their impact while cutting the toxic dosage necessary for maximum effect.