by Lisa Garber
Does marijuana cause cancer? The censorship-happy government’s war on marijuana may be sorely misplaced, especially when considering all the other issues in need of focus. Dr. Sean McAllister of the Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has spent years researching cannabidiol, a cannabinoid found in cannabis, the plant that flowers marijuana. “Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” he says.
You might remember Cash Hyde, the 3-year-old boy from Montana diagnosed with brain cancer but who beat it with his father Mike’s help and marijuana oil. Well, Hyde’s case isn’t the only one revealing the positive relationship between marijuana and cancer.
Does Marijuana Cause Cancer? THC as Therapy
In 1998, Cristina Sanchez of Complutense University in Madrid reported in a European biochemistry journal that THC—the famed psychoactive component in marijuana—“induces apoptosis [cell death] in C6 glioma cells,” which are a type of brain cancer.
Lead author of another study and Harvard University researcher Anju Preet says, “THC can have a potential therapeutic role.” His findings, presented in a 2007 American Association for Cancer Research in Los Angeles, showed that THC has a direct antitumoral effect.
THC’s First Human Trial
The first clinical trial studying THC’s antitumoral effect on humans was conducted by Manuel Guzman and his team of Spanish scientists. Guzman administered THC to nine patients who had not responded to traditional brain cancer therapies for the study. As published in a 2006 issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology, tumor cell proliferation reduced in response to THC administration through a catheter – showing the medical benefits of marijuana.
THC and the Lungs
Another Harvard study reports that THC slows lung cancer progress. Moreover, unlike chemotherapy which damages all cells—healthy or cancerous—THC specifically destroyed tumoral cells without harming healthy ones.
In another study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, spanning from 1985 to 2006, over 5,000 men and women smoked about one joint daily for seven years. Co-author Stefan Kertesz found that subjects, rather than having damaged lungs, showed increases in lung air flow rates. Surprising findings indeed.
Cannabidiol and Breast Cancer
With backing from the National Institute of Health, Dr. Sean McAllister conducted a study and found that cannabidiol inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, metastasis, and tumor growth.
McAllister researched cancer’s relationship to the ID-1 gene—a protein active during embryonic development but, in healthy subjects, turns and stays off. In the case of breast cancer patients, the gene turns back on, which causes malignant cells to metastasize. In the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, McAllister wrote that cannabidiol switches off the gene’s expression.
McAllister found that cannabidiol can even work alongside standard chemotherapy treatments by performing synergistically with pharmaceuticals. This means that maximum, toxic doses don’t have to be administered.
Despite accusations that marijuana smoking can compromise the immune system, mountains of research indicate that the plant has more to offer than a high. More studies are undoubtedly in the works.
In this research, Manuel Guzman located in Madrid, Spain discovered that cannabinoids substantially inhibit the growth of tumors in a variety of lab animals. In the study he also found that not one of these tested animals endured any kind of side effects seen in many similar chemotherapy treatments.
If all of the research doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe the 2,500 total studied patients throughout these 37 controlled studies may. None of the patients reported any kind of adverse side effects from the use of THC and based medication – further adding to the benefits of medical marijuana and strengthening the positive connection between marijuana and cancer.
So, does marijuana cause cancer, or does it fight cancer?