Cancers account for over half a million deaths each year in the United States, and nearly two million people are diagnosed with some form of cancer on an annual basis. Because of cancer’s impact on the lives and health of millions of people, medical researchers have long been investigating treatments for cancers. Astrocytoma treatment, or the treatment of a certain type of brain cancer, has made significant advances in recent years. Medical cannabis may hold the chemical keys to overcoming this dreaded brain disease and may do so more safely and with fewer side effects than traditional cancer treatment protocols.
According to the Mayo Clinic, astrocytoma is a specific group of brain cancers that begin in brain or spinal cord cells called astrocytes. As cancerous tumors grow, they can cause a range of symptoms, including weakness, seizures, nausea, and disability. There are several types of astrocytoma, and the cancerous tissues may grow slowly or aggressively, depending on the type and location of tumors. Certain forms of astrocytoma are commonly found in children under the age of 19, while most others are diagnosed in people 45 years of age or older.
Astrocytoma treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis, which involves imaging and biopsies. Once the type and location of cancerous tissues is pinpointed, treatment can begin. Traditionally, medical professionals have used a combination of radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, these treatments may lead to unpleasant side effects that negatively impact the cancer patient.
New research has uncovered properties in medical cannabis that may serve as a safer alternative to astrocytoma treatment. Chemical compounds in cannabis have been shown in limited clinical trials to reduce or even eliminate cancer-causing cells. Cannabis has also been used successfully to help manage the side effects of traditional cancer treatments, particularly the nausea and weight loss that often accompany chemotherapy sessions.
There are thousands of chemical compounds found in marijuana. Of particular interest to medical researchers is a class of compounds called phytocannabinoids, which includes:
In all, nearly 120 phytocannabinoids have been isolated from cannabis plant material. CBD and THC are the two compounds that have received the most attention; these two chemicals have demonstrated profound effects in managing or treating certain medical conditions. CBD has been shown to help reduce inflammation and to relieve pain symptoms. The psychoactive THC, which produces the characteristic “high”, has been used to manage the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and more.
Cannabinoids also have an effect on cancer cells; in a study conducted at St. George’s University in London in 2014, both THC and CBD inhibited cell growth. Together, they reduced the number of irregular astrocytes, suggesting that for astrocytoma treatment, cannabis may be an effective alternative.
Researchers believe cannabis products, especially high-concentration cannabis oils, can play a role in treating aggressive forms of cancer. With the dramatic reductions in cancer cells demonstrated time and again in limited clinical studies. The St. George’s study indicated that when used in conjunction with radiation therapy, patients with gliomas, one of the variations of astrocytoma, saw significant shrinkage of cancerous tumors. Other studies have investigated the role of medical cannabis and its chemical compounds in treating cancers like leukemia, cervical cancer, and basal cell carcinomas of the skin.
The benefits of cannabis and cannabinoid-containing products are continuing to be researched by the medical community. As an alternative astrocytoma treatment, or when used to support or enhance existing treatments, patients may experience tumor shrinkage without many of the debilitating side effects that cancer treatments can cause. This is good news for thousands of cancer patients, many of whom wish to regain their normal lives free of disease and discomfort.