If you research every list of qualifying health conditions for states with medical marijuana programs, you will see Cancer listed. That is because cannabinoids can provide several wellness benefits for patients. Regardless of what type of cancer they have been diagnosed with.
Recent studies have started to provide the evidence-based research that federal regulators in the United States have been asking for. There is an infinite number of patient stories about augmenting therapies with cannabis. Both help prevent cancer from metastasizing or spreading to other areas of the body and for symptom relief.
Patients diagnosed with Cancer want to understand what the health benefits of cannabis could be. And people living with cancer and frequent chemotherapy want to reclaim their quality of life, which can happen if they are provided a way to moderate the side-effects of cancer treatment.
Why do so many patients living with Cancer report positive wellness benefits from medical marijuana treatments? Let’s take a look at the causes of chronic inflammation and how it may be addressed with therapeutic cannabis. And why cannabis may provide breakthrough results by shrinking tumors and reducing mediatization in patients diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer As a Disease of Chronic Inflammation
When you think of inflammation, you probably conjure sore muscles or arthritic joint pain. But inflammation is a condition and an immune response in the body. A defense mechanism to help protect our health against virus and bacterial infections. Inflammation operating normally in the human body is a good thing. It’s critical to supporting good health.
But when inflammation becomes a chronic condition, that is when the risk factors begin to go up. Chronic inflammation is the defensive immune response that does not go away. It is different from acute inflammation (even though acute inflammation is often the precursor). Chronic inflammation can be caused by repeated infections, toxic compounds, chemicals, and even lifestyle habits.
The lifestyle factors that contribute to developing chronic inflammation include:
- A diet high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats and processed foods. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are known to be the best anti-inflammatory defense. Healthy natural foods provide rich antioxidants that help prevent cancer cells from developing.
- Stress is a primary culprit when it comes to developing chronic inflammation. A perpetual state of ‘fight or flight’ disrupts the natural control mechanisms that manage stress.
- The use or abuse of tobacco and alcohol can also contribute to chronic inflammation.
When the immune system is suppressed by long-term chronic inflammation, tissues can become damaged. And the immune system (which normally isolates and disposes of mutated tissues) can’t efficiently remove those cells. When they mutate, the cells can become cancerous.
What Are the Common Uses and Side-Effects of Chemotherapy?
If you have gone through chemotherapy treatments, you know how difficult it can be. Watching a loved one go through cancer treatment is equally difficult. And families are eager to try any kind of alternative medicine approach that can help relieve the patient.
Treatment of cancer with chemotherapy can involve radiation treatments and sometimes a combination of oral medications that do the same thing, attack cancer cells. But while modern medicine has few approaches to cure less invasive cancer, chemotherapy also creates short-term harm.
Some of the most common symptoms that patients undergoing cancer treatment experience are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suppressed appetite.
- Depression and anxiety
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Mouth sores
Beyond the treatment of specific types of cancer, chemotherapy is used to address other diseases therapeutically. Radiation therapies can be used for patients who have immune system diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. And it is also used to treat bone marrow disorders and prepare for a bone marrow transplant.
Evidence-Based Research Requested by U.S. Government But Prohibited by Prohibition
Do you know when you have an argument that seems to go around in circles? The federal prohibition of cannabis is one of those examples. Regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have declined to consider rescheduling cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
Cannabis has been caught in decades of racially motivated propaganda. Strong cultural influences in the United States supported the growth of a stigma that painted cannabis as a dangerous drug. Even though there are no recorded instances of deaths relating exclusively to cannabis use, the same cannot be said for other legalized controlled substances, like alcohol and tobacco.
The U.S. federal government currently classifies cannabis with substances that appear to be at a different hazard rating. For instance, heroin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote are categorized as Schedule 1 drugs on the Controlled Substances Act.
Federal regulators have refused to consider rescheduling cannabis into a Schedule II (prescription only) or Schedule III substance. Regulators have said that there is not enough “evidence-based clinical research” to determine if long-term use of cannabis is safe.
But by restricting funds for prohibited substances, U.S. researchers had no support for decades. And since cannabis was an illegal substance, they could not get approval for human trials. This effectively blocked gathering the evidence-based data they requested. The U.S. federal government blocked research at every turn.
Researchers from Israel May Discover the Cure for Cancer in Cannabinoids
Since human health and chronic disease researchers could not conduct clinical studies in the United States, they went elsewhere. Many countries opened their arms (and provided ample funding) for research into healthcare applications for cannabis.
Israel was one of the countries eager to advance research into medical cannabis. The country is recognized as the leading authority in cannabis research. But this wasn’t a recent development. The government of Israel had sanctioned cannabis clinical studies for decades. While the United States remained mired in prohibition, stifling medical research because of social (and administrative) stigmas.
One biochemist and professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem started the movement to research cannabis in the 1960s. Raphael Mechoulan’s clinical studies are the foundation of almost every advancement of understanding the healthcare potential of medical marijuana.
In 2017, the School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University founded the Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research. The group and laboratory employ almost thirty researchers. Some of the most important research from the MCCR in Israel has been the foundation for legalizing cannabis. And exploring the medicinal value of cannabinoids.
Now that the FDA has sanctioned and approved a handful of cannabis studies in the United States, they are looking for guidance and advice. The U.S. federal government has consulted with cannabis research teams in Israel to model similar methods to get the evidence-based research needed.
New Clinical Studies Support Cannabinoid Therapies for Patients Diagnosed With Cancer
One study in 2015 got global attention from researchers and healthcare providers. The “Patterns of Use of Medical Cannabis Among Israeli Cancer Patients: A Single Institution Experience.” The study’s authors were Barliz Waissengrin, MD, Damien Urban, MD, Yasmin Leshem, MD, Meital Garty, BA, Ido Wolf, MD, et al.
The study reported that cancer patients administered cannabis experienced:
- Better symptom management
- Improved emotional and physical well-being.
- Low risk of addiction (easily administered and supervised by a primary care provider).
- Positive results in palliative treatment for pain.
On January 27, 2020, Israeli researchers from Tel Aviv and Bethesda, Maryland, announced that cannabis could prevent cancer growth. CBD, which is a non-intoxicating Phytocannabinoid. The study found that the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neurogenesis benefits of CBC and CBG (cannabigerol) present anti-tumor properties. The human clinical trial focused on gastrointestinal cancer cells.
What is Next for Cannabis Research in America?
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a prescription medication called Epidiolex. The prescription medication was the first cannabis-derived medication approved by the FDA. Physicians can prescribe Epidiolex as an oral solution for the treatment of seizures. Specifically, patients diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes.
In October 2020, the FDA issued a written statement that qualified cannabis for medical applications research. There are three programs; Fast Track, Breakthrough Therapy, and Accelerated Approval and Priority. By modifying cannabis research into these categories, the FDA is now opening the door to domestic research into therapeutic applications for cannabis.