As multiple states across the United States and nations around the globe continue to successfully legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, research confirms the various health benefits that can be realized from cannabis. Increasingly, clinical studies have begun to examine the link between cancer and cannabis to determine whether marijuana could be a potential therapeutic treatment for curing cancer. In fact, Harvard Medical School found that nearly half of oncologists in the United States were recommending cannabis to their cancer patients to mitigate side effects way back in 1991. In today’s medical world, the following are some of the ways cannabis products have been proven to help cancer patients with support from cutting-edge clinical research studies.
Curbing the Nausea and Vomiting from Cancer Treatments
In order to have a fighting chance at life, most people with cancer must undergo extensive treatments of radiation and chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells in their body. As a result of these treatments, cancer patients have to battle debilitating side effects, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, and extreme pain. In patients who are already experiencing severe nausea or vomiting from cancer treatments, other medical treatments are generally ineffective because of the difficulty in keeping a pill down. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), research has indicated that cannabis has the ability to curb these side effects of cancer treatment to ensure cancer patients can continue the treatments needed to cure the cancer.
Within a 2001 study, researchers found that cannabis was a highly effective anti-emetic product in treating the side effects of chemotherapy. Under the names dronabinol and nabilone, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved cannabinoids for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients who have not responded to standard therapies. Many clinical trials have shown that both of these drugs have performed as well as or better than the other FDA-approved drugs to relieve these symptoms directly.
Enhancing Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life
Along with the palliative effects of preventing nausea and vomiting, other studies have concluded that the active ingredients in cannabis are able to stimulate appetite to ensure cancer patients are receiving the nutrients needed to stay strong. In patients with advanced cancer and loss of appetite, approved levels of THC have been found to be more effective in increasing appetite and curbing weight loss in comparison with patients who took a placebo. Research has also discovered that cannabis products help cancer patients through the challenges of chemotherapy by improving mood, enhancing a sense of well-being, decreasing anxiety, and improving sleep quality.
Among the most important links between cancer and cannabis is the drug’s ability to positively effective the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to relieve the excruciating pain associated with cancer and chemotherapy. With millions of people around the world suffering from the debilitating pain caused by various forms of cancer, studies have found that cannabis is a very effective medicinal aid that can manage pain and improve patients’ quality of life. Since severe and persistent cancer pain caused by inflammation, invasion of bone, nerve injury, or damage to other pain-sensitive structures is usually resistant to opioids, cannabinoids are a breakthrough treatment for significantly relieving pain patients experience.
Inhibiting Human Cancer Cell Proliferation
Clinical researchers have found significant evidence that supports the claim that cannabis products have tumor-fighting properties that can potentially inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in various parts of the human body. Although not yet tested in human clinical trials, studies in mice have shown that cannabinoids have the ability to inhibit cancer cell growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth in key signal-carrying pathways, and curbing the development of blood vessels needed for cancer to grow. In fact, some animal studies have indicated that cannabis can kill cancer cells without harming normal cells.
Although brain tumors are highly resistant to current anti-cancer treatments available in the medical community, new therapeutic strategies using cannabis have been found to improve the poor prognosis of patients suffering from brain cancer. In a study published within the British Journal of Cancer, researchers at Complutense University in Madrid found that THC and other cannabinoids are able to successfully inhibit tumor growth in brain cancer in a safe manner without any psychoactive side effects. Along the same lines, clinical studies have supported the use of cannabis to stop cell growth with breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, blood cancer, oral cancer, liver cancer, and even the most-deadly pancreatic cancer.