Does Cannabis Cure Breast Cancer? – The Facts About Cannabinoids
More and more women across South Africa are learning that CBD oil tinctures are being used to treat breast and cervical cancer, with success.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women; one in ten will be affected by it at some point. There are a variety of highly successful chemical, radiological, and surgical treatment options. But they’re not particularly pleasant. Moreover, some tumours are resistant and prone to relapse.
There is reliable and growing for-real evidence suggesting that cannabis can slow the growth of tumours. Results of the current investigation revealed that CBDA inhibits migration of the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells (through a mechanism involving inhibition of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A, coupled with an activation of the small GTPase).
In South Africa alone, breast cancer affects thousands of women and many men every year. Some non-invasive forms of the disease are relatively treatable, but many types are far more aggressive.
Using cannabis or marijuana for medicinal purposes is a hot topic right now among patients and health practitioners. It’s regularly touted as a pain reliever for many chronic illnesses, including cancer.
So what is CBD oil, also known as cannabis oil, and does it really have cancer-fighting powers? First, the basics: CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s one of several compounds, called cannabinoids, found in cannabis, aka the dagga plant.
More than 60 peer-reviewed studies on medical cannabis were conducted between 1990 and 2014 for conditions ranging from breast cancer to Parkinson’s disease. The vast majority of these studies (68.3%) found cannabis had medicinal benefits, 23.3% were inconclusive, and only 8.3% yielded negative results. In the U.S., 44 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, which means 85% of the country should have access to medicinal cannabis for treating a wide range of debilitating conditions.
As remarkable as it may seem, there is reliable and growing for-real evidence suggesting that cannabis can slow the growth of tumours by hindering their ability to hijack blood vessels for their own nefarious purposes (aka angiogenesis), hamper the migration of cancer cells throughout the body (aka metastasis), and actually hasten the death (aka autophagy and apoptosis) of these otherwise uncontrollably proliferating rogue cells. In other words, cannabis really does fight cancer.
Researchers find cannabis oil fights breast cancer. Worldwide, breast cancer comprises 10.4% of all cancer incidence among women, making it the second most common type of non-skin cancer (after lung cancer) and the fifth most common cause of cancer death.
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is an inhibitor of MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell migration (stops them spreading) and cannabidiol (CBD), is a major non-psychotropic constituent of cannabis, that has been reported to possess anti-proliferative effect (stops growth or their ability to multiply ) on cancer cells.
When singer and actress Olivia Newton-John announced last year that she had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – a return of the breast cancer she battled into remission in the 1990s, which has now spread to her back – she said she planned to fight the disease in part with “natural wellness therapies.”
While Newton-John didn’t specify which natural therapies she would begin using, her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, did sound off on one of the remedies when she posted this message on Instagram in support of her mom: “My mom and best friend is going to be fine. She will be using medicine that I often talk about. CBD oil! (Cannabis has scientifically proven properties to inhibit cancer cell growth) and other natural healing remedies plus modern medicine to beat this,” Lattanzi wrote.
Scientists at California Pacific Medical Center who have been researching marijuana compounds for over 20 years confirm that cannabidiol, or CBD, has the ability to switch off the DNA that causes breast and other types of cancers to metastasize.
CBD is the second-most abundant cannabinoid within marijuana, but does not cause the psychotropic high of THC. Although some highly successful treatments have been developed, certain breast tumours are resistant to conventional therapies and a considerable number of them relapse.
Experimental evidence accumulated during the last decade supports the fact that cannabinoids and their derivatives, possess anticancer properties. These compounds exert anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-migratory and anti-invasive actions in a wide spectrum of cancer cells in culture. Moreover, tumour growth, angiogenesis and metastasis are hampered by cannabinoids.
Cannabidiol and its related cousin chemicals, all broadly called cannabinoids, show some benefits for reducing chemotherapy-related pain and other symptoms like vomiting and nausea in patients. Other research has shown cannabinoids can uniquely target and kill cancer cells and anecdotal cases speak to supposedly miraculous recoveries from cancer as a result of using cannabis oil. Unfortunately, some people with cancer have been scammed, taking cannabis oil sold illegally through drug dealers. Research does not show any evidence cannabis oil is a cure, and moreover, cannabis oil sold illicitly on the street is often contaminated with dangerous ingredients and may not even contain any THC or CBD. So the question remains, does cannabis oil have any benefits for breast cancer patients? Here is a look at three potential uses of high quality cannabis oil for breast cancer.
1. A research study showed CBD inhibits a gene called Id-1. Researchers believe Id-1 triggers the metastatic process responsible for spreading cells from the original breast tumour to other parts of the body such as the brain and lungs. “This is the first evidence that a cannabinoid can target the expression of an important breast cancer metastasis gene,”; said Manuel Guzman, a Spanish expert on cannabinoids and cancer. He described the California study as giving “preliminary insight into the question of whether CBD could be used clinically to treat metastatic breast cancer.”; The experiments in this study were conducted in cultured cells, therefore animal model research is the next step to determine if cannabis oil has the potential for treating metastatic breast cancer.
Moreover, Id-1 is just one of many genes involved in breast cancer metastasis, so future research also needs to examine the impact of CBD on other metastasis genes.
2. A California woman received a grim diagnosis of an aggressive form of breast cancer called HER2-positive, already in late stages and metastasized to her lungs. She was told she only had 18 months to two years to live. She used three different homemade herbal remedies containing high amounts of CBD. She made the concentrate out of dagga plants using low enough temperatures to retain the medical benefits of the CBD, while minimizing the psychoactive effects of the THC. The end results were a salve applied topically to her breast, a tincture she drank as a tea in the morning, and a high-potency oil kept in a syringe for measurement purposes, administered through a suppository. The latter allowed the medicine to be absorbed more efficiently. Within five weeks of treatment, a scan showed her lymph nodes were clear and the tumours were basically gone. Her homemade CBD treatment resulted in halting the spread of an especially aggressive form of breast cancer. Although this story is anecdotal, it speaks to the potential of CBD for treating breast cancer.
3. Cannabis is useful in combatting multiple cancer-related symptoms including anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression. The safety of cannabis is acceptable with generally tolerable and short-lived side effects. Preclinical data suggest cannabinoids are effective in treating and preventing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Preclinical data indicate cannabinoids may directly impart anti-tumour activity, possibly most notably in central nervous system malignancies. While anecdotal evidence is promising regarding the curative effects of CBD for breast cancer, large-scale clinical studies are needed to test this hypothesis.
Triple-Negative breast cancer
Researchers have discovered that cannabidiol (CBD) found in the cannabis plant has the ability to switch off the gene responsible for metastasis in an aggressive form of breast cancer called triple-negative. Most breast cancers are facilitated by hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), estrogen receptors, and/or progesterone receptors.
Although there are many types of breast cancer, they are usually grouped into four categories, depending on how they show up on diagnostic tests:
Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+) are relatively common and can occur in two in three cases of breast cancer, particularly in older women, and these have receptors sensitive to one or both of these hormones.
Since Triple-Negative Breast Cancer cells do not express these receptors, there are less ways to fight them. This form, which affects 15% of patients, doesn’t have three hormone receptors that the most successful therapies target.
Cells from this cancer have high levels of ID-1. When scientists exposed cells from this cancer to cannabidiol they found the cells returned to a healthy normal state.
Other potentially treatable cancers that respond well to cannabis oil extract are forms of leukaemia, lung, ovarian and brain cancers, which also have high levels of ID-1. Research into other forms of cancer indicate similar results.
A recent study indicated that a proportion of these cells exhibit cannabinoid receptors, making cannabinoids one of the most suitable potential targeted treatments, particularly for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. A further study reported in Molecular Oncology reported in 2015: “The anti-tumour role and mechanisms of Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychotropic cannabinoid compound, are not well studied especially in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In the present study, we analysed CBD’s anti-tumorigenic activity against highly aggressive breast cancer cell lines including TNBC subtype. We show here for the first time-that CBD significantly inhibits epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced proliferation and chemotaxis of breast cancer cells.”
(HER2 or ErbB2) is a protein that is over-copied by certain types of breast cancer. HER2-positive cancers spread more rapidly than other types of cancer. Triple negative breast cancers do not have estrogen or progesterone receptors and don’t show overproduction of HER2.
Triple-negative breast cancers spread aggressively because they don’t respond to hormones or drugs that target HER2, but chemotherapy is an option. These types of breast cancer are ER+ and PR+, and they have too much HER2 production. They can be treated with hormones, HER2 drugs, and chemo.
Research has shown that PR+, HER2-positive, and triple-negative breast cancers can be effectively treated with cannabis. The protocols recommended should have high THC-to-CBD ratios.
Patients with ER+ or triple-positive breast cancer require lower ratios of THC to CBD – a ratio 1:1 to 1:3 is preferable.
Cannabinoid receptors are overexpressed in the tumours of particular cancers, such as those of the breast, liver, lungs, and prostate. Cannabinoids from cannabis bind with these receptors and either switch off the cell’s ability to divide and replicate or simply kill it (apoptosis).
In this manner, full spectrum cannabis oils containing both cannabinoids (CBD and THC) can work in tandem with the body’s endocannabinoid system to induce cancer cell death, inhibit cell growth, or prevent the metastasis (spread) of cancer cells. In addition, unlike chemotherapy treatments, cannabinoids can prevent healthy cell damage.
Full spectrum of cannabinoids to treat breast cancer
Cancers that involve estrogen may actually spread in response to large amounts of THC.
There is also a significant role for THC in the treatment of cancer, studies have suggested that different cannabinoids fight different forms of breast cancer. THC has been shown to induce apoptosis in ErbB2–positive breast cancer cells and inhibits tumour growth in animal models. CBD is known to work at the genetic level, blocking expression of the ID-1 gene to inhibit breast cancer metastasis.
However, the ratios of THC and CBD must be matched to the classification of breast cancer, evidence suggests that with certain kinds of breast cancer, namely those that are estrogen-positive, the tumour will actually grow if too much THC is used.
In 2016 a research study on the effects of CBD on cervical cancer was funded by the South African Medical Research Council and it clearly showed that using CBD extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells.