Over the past 40 years, evidence has been accumulating that both THC and CBD, the two most common active ingredients in marijuana, have anti-cancer properties.
The first study showing this was a study done on mice in 1975. Most of the studies since then have been done on cancer cells grown in labs or animal studies, but in 2006 there was a trial using human subjects performed in Spain.
A team of Spanish scientists led by Manuel Guzman administered pure THC via a catheter into the tumors of nine patients with glioblastoma (the most aggressive form of brain cancer) who had failed to respond to standard brain-cancer therapies. There was significant reduction of tumor cell proliferation in all nine test subjects.
Now a new study done at the University of London suggests that combining THC and CBD with existing chemotherapy drugs could be more effective than using cannabinoids or chemotherapy drugs alone. But the study produced an interesting twist: The synergistic effect showed up only if the cannabinoids were administered after cancer cells were blasted with conventional chemo.
“We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining overall effectiveness of this treatment,” said Dr. Wai Liu, who led the University of London study.
“These extracts [of THC and CBD] are highly concentrated and purified, so smoking marijuana will not have a similar effect,” he said. “But cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology, and studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximize a therapeutic effect.”
The London study was an in vitro cell study that used leukemia (blood cancer) cell lines. The cannabinoids were tested with two anti-leukemia drugs: cytarabine and vincristine.
Administering the cannabinoids after the cells were zapped with the chemo drugs resulted in greater cancer cell death (apoptosis) than chemo alone or cannabinoids alone, but the reverse was true if the cannabinoids were administered first.
“Our results suggest that when certain cannabinoids are paired together, the resulting product can be combined synergistically with common anti-leukaemia drugs allowing the dose of cytotoxic agents (chemo drugs) to be dramatically reduced yet still remain efficacious,” the researchers concluded. “Nevertheless, the sequence of drug administration is crucial to the success of these triple combinations and should be considered when planning such treatments.”
The combining of cannabinoids with conventional chemotherapy is a new approach to treating cancer, and one that could be a real game-changer. An obvious question is can the approach be used with chemotherapy agents used to treat other cancers, including glioblastoma, which Guzman showed responded to cannabinoids 10 years ago.
Another obvious question is why is marijuana still a Schedule I controlled substance in light of 41 years of research pointing to its potential as a cure for cancer?
And the answer to that question is equally obvious: It’s because American politicians prefer to continue the drug war instead of allowing marijuana’s medicinal properties to be systematically explored.
Medical marijuana became available in 28 states only because the American people began legalizing it state-by-state through the initiative process. Elected officials, both at the state and the local level almost always opposed it and had to be dragged along kicking and screaming. The same is true of the American medical establishment.
There are currently a number of bills in Congress to reschedule marijuana’s status under the controlled substance act or delist it all together. It’s widely assumed that none of them will pass.
If they don’t, it’s time for pro-legalization groups to start targeting drug war dead-enders in Congress in the 2018 elections, as well as pushing legalization initiatives. This will involve recruiting candidates and raising money, but the message can be kept brutally simple: “Marijuana may cure cancer — but it won’t if you keep voting for your Congressman.”
And an excellent place to start would be in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. That way maybe Trump would notice.