Treating Breast Cancer with Cannabis

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Breast cancer is a majorly aggressive health concern for women worldwide. It is currently the second deadliest form of cancer for women. In fact, a woman born today has a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime (cancer.gov). In addition to its deadliness, it is also misunderstood and, due to the various types of breast cancer, difficult to treat. Radiology, surgery, and chemical options are often used in an attempt to combat breast cancers but they are incredibly harsh and can have devastating side effects. Further, many types of breast cancer continue to be resistant to these interventions and the prognosis for these remains poor. Fortunately, research is proving that medical marijuana, also known as medical cannabis, is slowing the growth of tumors (angiogenesis) and actually causing the cancer cells to die through a process known as apoptosis (Guzmán, M, et al).

There are many types of breast cancer and they can broken down into four subgroups: Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+), HER2-positive, Triple Negative, and Triple Positive. Roughly two thirds of patients will be diagnosed with ER+ or PR+ and most will receive therapy options including medication and radiation. Triple Negative breast cancers spread the most aggressively because they do not respond to hormones or pharmaceutical therapies, though chemotherapy can be an option. These types of cancers respond well to a high CBD to THC ratio (Caffarel, et al.). Cancers that are estrogen positive, however, require a CBD dominant protocol as high levels of THC have been linked to cancer spreading in response. As each type of cancer is specific and requires specialized treatment, it is highly advised that the patient speak to a qualified medical cannabis professional before beginning any sort of medical protocol.

Medical studies are showing that both cannabinoids CBD and THC work in conjunction with the body’s endocannabinoid system to stop cell growth, encourage cell death (apoptosis), and aid in the prevention of damaging nearby healthy cells. A 2007 study found that marijuana somehow deactivated ID-1, which is the gene accepted to cause the spread of breast cancer (McAllister, et al.). The researchers of this study stressed the importance of a high level of CBD being necessary to combat the cancer cells, stating that merely smoking the plant alone would not be sufficient and suggested a concentrated form of ingestion for maximum efficacy. More recently, a 2014 study indicated that the cannabinoid THC is effective in shrinking and killing cancer cells within the body. Dr. Peter McCormick, co-author of this study even boldly states, “THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties” (Moreno, et al.). Incredibly, cannabinoids have been found to prevent the increase of blood flow to tumors, known as angiogenesis, and prevent metastasis, or the spreading of cancer cells to other healthy tissue (Behrend).

Beyond inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and killing them, medical marijuana is effective at decreasing the negative side effects associated with breast cancer and its treatment. The cannabinoids found in medical marijuana provide a variety of benefits for cancer patients, such as preventing the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy (Orr and McKernan) and the reduction of pain. Cannabis is also known to help patients suffering from insomnia to unwind and aid in appetite regulation and ease digestive distress. Research shows it is also very effective against the depression and anxiety that can arise as a result of cancer and its treatment (Campos, et al.). Medical cannabis has also shown to work in synergy with conventional cancer treatment and is proving to be more powerful than chemotherapy alone (Caffarel, et al.).

Breast cancer needs to be attacked from various angles. It is an invasive and aggressive form of cancer that has not been fully eradicated by conventional medical treatment. Medication, radiation, and chemotherapy, while sometimes helpful, are painful and grueling on the body. Additionally, they do not always prevent tumors from coming back. Medical cannabis shows it has the ability to stop cancer growth, stop the cancer from spreading to healthy cells in the body, and encourage cancer cells to die off completely. Cannabis not only treats the cancer directly it helps the body to repair itself from the abuse caused by these invasive cancer treatments.

Written by: Mara Trivino ©KingHarvest.org

Sources:


1. “Breast Cancer Risk in American Women – National Cancer Institute.” Comprehensive Cancer Information – National Cancer Institute. Web. http://www.cancer.gov/ types/breast/risk-fact-sheet.
2. Guzmán, M, et al. “Control of the cell survival/Death decision by cannabinoids.” Journal of molecular medicine (Berlin, Germany)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/11269508.
3. Caffarel, M M, et al. “Cannabinoids: a new hope for breast cancer therapy?” Cancer treatment reviews., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/22776349.
4. Orr, Leo E., and Joseph F. McKernan. “Antiemetic Effect of Δ9‐Tetrahydrocannabinol in Chemotherapy‐Associated Nausea and Emesis As Compared to Placebo and Compazine.” The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 8 Mar. 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/ doi/10.1002/j.1552-4604.1981.tb02578.x/abstract.
5. Campos, A C, et al. “The Anxiolytic Effect of Cannabidiol on Chronically Stressed Mice Depends on Hippocampal Neurogenesis: Involvement of the Endocannabinoid System.”The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov /pubmed/23298518
6. McAllister, S D, et al. “Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells.” Molecular cancer therapeutics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18025276.
7. Moreno, Estefanía, et al. “Estefanía Moreno.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, www.jbc.org/content/early/2014/06/18/jbc.M114.561761.
8. Behrend, S W. “Cannabinoids may be therapeutic in breast cancer.” Oncology nursing forum., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23448745