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Question #2: Does Cannabis kill cancer?

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q2-cannabis-crop

While many medical professionals are starting to accept the usefulness of prescribing cannabis to mitigate the adverse side effects of chemotherapy and radiation (especially loss of appetite, nausea, pain, and insomnia), many more are not aware of cannabis’ ability to protect against and fight active cancer. Cannabis doesn’t actually kill cancer but it causes it to commit suicide and deprives it of its life-giving nutrients and frankly, that is somehow more poetically just and aesthetically pleasing to me, so I’ll take it.

 

Selective conversion of your bioterrain from hospitable to hostile

I wish to caution that I am not promoting Cannabis as a “cure” for cancer… mainly because I don’t believe a cure for cancer exists or will ever exist. It is a dis-ease condition that can be managed. We are all fighting cancer every single day. If you have cancer, your immune system has not been up to the task of combating the carcinogenic stressors your body has been subjected to… whether they be environmental toxins, genetic mutations, emotional stress, etc. You have developed a “bioterrain” that is hospitable to cancer, allowing it to thrive. I believe that if you wish to manage cancer, you must convert that bioterrain to one that is hostile to cancer. That is basically what chemotherapy and radiation do. The problem is that they create a bioterrain that is hostile for your healthy cells and systems as well. My naturopathic protocol played a big part in my survival against all odds and it is based on the basic principles of detoxification, nutrition, immune boosting and killing cancer. In my last post (Question #1: Is Cannabis good for my body?), I explained how cannabinoids help our physiological systems to achieve homeostasis. In line with my protocol, Cannabis helps to create a bioterrain that is hostile to, as opposed to hospitable to, cancer by regulating the immune system, destroying cancer’s protection, and depriving it of a blood supply.

 

How Cannabis fights cancer

All cells are programmed to die and this is called apoptosis. Cancer figures out a way around that programming, becoming “bullet-proof”. Cannabinoids outsmart the cancer and induce apoptosis, making it mortal again. They do that by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors and increasing ceramide. The fascinating thing is that cannabinoids do not increase ceramide in the presence of healthy cells… only cancer cells. Apoptosis is a vastly preferable way for a cell to die than necrosis (which is what happens when chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer and healthy cells). Necrosis introduces a toxic load the healing body is ill-equipped to deal with, while in apoptosis cells are neatly dissembled and “eaten” (phagocytosis).

Cannabinoids also inhibit cancer by starving it, in a sense. Angiogenesis is the formation of blood cells to feed a tumor. The anti-angiogenesis properties of cannabinoids prevent the formation of that blood supply so the tumor cannot be fed and dies.

In addition to inhibiting size and growth of tumors, cannabinoids have been found to inhibit metastasis through regulation of ID-1 gene expression.

In summary, CB1 and CB2 receptor activation by cannabinoids in our EndoCannabinoid System induces apoptosis and impairs angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids also cross the blood brain barrier, making it an extremely valuable weapon in fighting cancer that has metastasized to the brain, as well as primary brain cancers.

 

The Entourage Effect

Reportedly, the combined use of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids (and even terpenes and other natural compounds found in cannabis) has a synergistic effect on the suppression of cancer activity. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts and, for that reason, it is usually recommended that one use products from the whole plant, as opposed to chemical isolates. THC and CBD naturally occur within a plant in an inverse ratio… i.e., if a strain is high in THC, it is necessarily low in CBD, and vice versa. One can control the ratio by choosing a strain that has been bred and tested to deliver a certain ratio. THC is psychoactive and CBD isn’t, thus, in a whole plant extract, the more CBD you ingest, the less THC you will ingest and the less “high” you will experience. They both fight cancer in similar and yet complementary ways. While I believe one should strive for a balance of THC and CBD for maximum effectiveness, a high CBD strain can still be very effective if that’s all you can obtain.

I have HER2+ breast cancer which metastasized to the brain and other areas. I had 9 brain leptomeningeal brain tumors and was given just weeks to live. I took high daily doses of high CBD oil and three weeks later, 4 of them were gone without a trace (see My brain metastases for more info on my brain protocol). I now take a mixed THC/CBD oil every night before bed as “maintenance”. I have been NED (no evidence of disease) since May of 2014. See below for a study that shows how cannabinoids may be especially effective for my type of cancer (HER2+).

 

Side effects of western treatment options

The reason I chose cannabis was that the options western medicine presented were highly disagreeable. I was offered WBR (whole brain radiation) which is as bad as it sounds. People reported significant loss of cognitive function and patches of hair that never grew back. I tried Tykerb, an oral cancer-killing drug that first shut down my liver, then my pancreas, then gave me sharp stabbing pains in my heart. I quit before it had a chance to do anything. I also tried methotrexate injected into my CSF (cerebrospinal fluid), which gave me a rash of large, itchy pustules all over my body.

Anyone who has endured (or had loved ones who have endured) chemotherapy and radiation, know the awful side effects and know that those treatments are usually what people actually die of when they have cancer. In addition to the toxicity of necrosis of both cancer and healthy tissue, side effects include loss of appetite and nausea, anxiety and depression, insomnia, organ failure, pain and neuropathy. I’m not saying western treatment options can’t play a positive role in fighting cancer, I just posit that it is exciting to consider Cannabis as a first-line treatment option. It has little to no side effects and it is basically rectifying deficiencies in compounds that our bodies require. (see Question #1: Is Cannabis good for my body?)

 

Research

Due to its classification as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States, the extensive medical research we need has not yet been done. Many studies that shed light on the healing properties of cannabinoids have been done on animals and we must always be cautious in drawing conclusions for humans. However, it is important to note that research into the mechanisms of cannabinoids in preventing epileptic seizures that was first performed in cells and animals was born out in later human studies and supported by the extraordinary and large body of human anecdotal evidence from Colorado.

In fact, the cannabinoids are working better in humans than the preclinical evidence suggests, since those studies only use chemical-induced seizures and the cannabinoids are having effect on genetically-driven seizures that literally no pharmaceuticals in existence were working against. If those preclinical effects translated, why wouldn’t they for cancer too, especially in the face of extremely strong anecdotal evidence? That said, here is some of the research and anecdotal evidence for you to assess. Generally, research progresses from human or animal cell lines in labs (in vitro) to cells in animals (in vivo) to cells in living humans (clinical trials). Where possible, I’ve tried to notate which method was used.

 

General Cancer & Cannabis Reviews:

  • How does Cannabis Kill Cancer? Click here to start with Part 1 of a 2-part article by Jeffrey Dach, MD.
  • The endocannabinoid signaling system in cancer. S. Pisanti et al, 2013. This report highlights the main signaling pathways for the antitumor effects of the endocannabinoid system in cancer and its basic role in cancer pathogenesis, and discusses the alternative view of cannabinoid receptors as tumor promoters. We focus on new players in the antitumor action of the endocannabinoid system and on emerging crosstalk among cannabinoid receptors and other membrane or nuclear receptors involved in cancer.

 

Specific Landmark studies

  • The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids. McCallister, 2015. Using animal models, CBD has been shown to inhibit the progression of many types of cancer including glioblastoma (GBM), breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer. This review centers on mechanisms by which CBD, and other plant-derived cannabinoids, inhibit tumor cell viability, invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, and the stem-like potential of cancer cells. We also discuss the ability of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to induce autophagy and apoptotic-mediated cancer cell death, and enhance the activity of first-line agents commonly used in cancer treatment.

 

Cannabis and breast cancer

  • Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells. McCallister et al., 2007. CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness…. proliferation, invasion, and metastasis. Three days of CBD treatment of human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells led to almost complete abolishment of Id-1 expression. Using an in vivo model, it was shown that CBD significantly reduced primary tumor growth, the number of lung metastases, and the volume of metastases, in a largely dose-dependent manner. (mice in vivo).
  • Anti-tumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma. A. Ligresti et al., 2006. In a highly malignant human breast carcinoma cell line, cannabidiol counteracts cell growth both in vivo and in vitro as well as tumor metastasis in vivo. Cannabidiol exerts its effects on these cells through a combination of mechanisms that include either direct or indirect activation of CB2 and TRPV1 receptors, and induction of oxidative stress, all contributing to induce apoptosis. (mice in vivo)
  • Modulation of the tumor microenvironment and inhibition of EGF/EGFR pathway: Novel anti-tumor mechanisms of Cannabidiol in breast cancer. M. Elbaz et al., 2014. CBD is a potent anti-tumor drug with anti-proliferative, anti-migratory, and anti-invasive properties. These results also suggest a cross-talk between EGFR and one of the receptors that CBD acts on. Furthermore, CBD has a tumor microenvironment modulating property which suggests an important role of CBD receptors on changing the cytokine profile within the tumor microenvironment. This study advocates the use of CBD in breast cancer patients especially those with highly aggressive and metastatic cancer cells including TNBC patients, and those who have resistance to conventional EGFR therapy. (mice in vivo)
  • Phyto-, endo- and synthetic cannabinoids: promising chemotherapeutic agents in the treatment of breast and prostate carcinomas. A. Fraguas-Sanchez et al, 2016. According to a University of Madrid study published in 2016 that reviews published research to date, marijuana’s non-psychoactive CBD cannabinoid could one day become an effective tool in the treatment of prostate and breast cancer.
  • Cannabinoids: a new hope for breast cancer therapy?. Caffarel et al., 2012. Experimental evidence accumulated during the last decade supports that cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives, possess anticancer activity. These compounds exert anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-migratory and anti-invasive actions in a wide spectrum of cancer cells in culture. Moreover, tumor growth, angiogenesis and metastasis are hampered by cannabinoids in xenograft-based and genetically-engineered mouse models of cancer.

I have chosen to focus on breast cancer because my audience is focused on that but I want to emphasize that there is a lot of exciting research that supports the effectiveness of cannabinoids in fighting ALL cancers, as well as a host of other disease conditions. Their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier make them a highly effective tool not only in fighting breast cancer brain metastases but also primary brain cancers that are particularly challenging, such as gliomas.

 

Testimonials and Case studies

 

So this is all very promising, but…

… there are also indications of cannabinoids’ puzzling, if not troubling, effects on cancer. While, there are arguments to negate or minimize these findings, I would be remiss not to mention them. They are further support for the argument that we need much more research, including clinical trials, in order to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the ECS and its relationship to cancer in humans. Specifically, we need to isolate the actions of the different cannabinoids and other natural compounds in cannabis and the different roles of the different CB receptors in different types of cancer. The only way to get that research is to remove its status as a Schedule 1 drug.

• Cannabinoids have been found to encourage cancer cells to grow. S, Hart et al., 2004.

• Cannabis can have different effects depending on the dosage and levels of cannabinoid receptors present on the cancer cells. E. Cudaback et al., 2010.

Activating CB2 receptors may actually interfere with the ability of the immune system to recognize and destroy tumor cells. McKallip et al., 2005.

• Cancer cells may be able to develop resistance to cannabinoids and start growing again, although blocking ALK pathways in the cells can get around it. M. Lorenti et al., 2011.

Research suggests that combining cannabinoids with chemotherapy drugs may be an effective approach. This idea is supported by lab experiments combining cannabinoids with other drugs including gemcitabine and temozolomide.

Thus is the current state of research on Cannabis and cancer. In my case, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for that clinical trial that is just a gleam in someone’s eye. I took the chance and am glad that I did.

 

forward to read Question #3: What is the difference between different kinds of Cannabis?

back to Cannabis & Cancer to view all ten questions…

My relationship to Cannabis and Cancer…

In 2012, I lost the use of my legs and one arm and, with tumors crushing my vertebrae and pelvis and present in my liver, lungs, and lymph system, I was not expected to walk again and given just weeks to live. Her2+ breast cancer had metastasized profusely. I employed western medicine and an intensive naturopathic regimen and I got through that, thinking perhaps they were wrong and that I would live a long life. Then, a year later, they found 9 leptomeningeal brain tumors and again gave me just weeks to live. Western medicine didn’t have much to offer… I refused WBR, whole brain radiation, and the chemotherapy that crossed the blood-brain-barrier was highly toxic and shut my organs down. I read that Cannabis crosses the BBB and kills cancer so I took large amounts of CBD oil and a couple of other naturopathic things (see My Brain Metastases) and three weeks later, four of the nine tumors were gone without a trace. I now take a more balanced ratio of THC and CBD at night in a tincture for maintenance. I have been NED (no evidence of disease) since May 2014.

I am so very intrigued by the knowledge I have gained about the healing powers of Cannabis but so very frustrated by the lack of real data because of it’s legal status. I field so many questions that I can’t completely and truthfully answer, so I decided to present what I have been able to learn in the context of those questions. I do not profess to be “right” as the absolute truth of so much of this is truly not known yet. I have tried to gather valid scientific sources, compelling anecdotal success stories, and a list of resources for you to learn more.

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Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this website should be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor. I am a Stage IV breast cancer thriver who is currently NED/NAD and simply sharing what I did, and do, and why. Please research anything I share to determine if it is a good path for you. Bless you all on the path you choose.

All original content contained on this web site, What I did and do and why, is copyrighted, 2015,2016 Kaiulani Facciani.

 

 

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