If there is one common theme in all of the literature and scientific papers, it is that cannabis and cannabinoids enhance the benefits of conventional treatment for side effect management. For cancer patients, this is most notable in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as well as pain management.
In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology this year, authors reviewed the literature surrounding the treatment of cancer with cannabis. While the majority of the data came from animal trials, results were positive. For example, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) slowed lung cancer tumor growth in mice. Although the information is promising in animals, further research in human clinical trials is needed.
What the clinical trials are saying:
While there have been a few clinical trials in humans studying the use of cannabis as a cancer treatment, the results are either inconclusive or still pending. Some of these clinical trials include:
A clinical trial in humans with malignant brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme aka GBM) showed tumor shrinkage in two out of nine patients when THC was administered directly into the tumor. Unfortunately, even though the tumors shrunk, the patients did not live longer.
Two other clinical trials in Israel are studying the treatment of GBM with cannabis in patients who have failed all other treatments.
Another clinical trial in Israel is studying cannabinol as a single agent in patients with solid tumors who have failed all other therapies.
Now that you have the research…
Points to consider when deciding whether to take medical marijuana:
Impact on treatment: Regardless of whether or not marijuana is legal in your state, it is important to tell your doctor if and how you use marijuana, either recreationally or medically, and the frequency of your use. Marijuana interferes with the metabolism of many drugs, including chemotherapeutic agents and herbal supplements. Marijuana is metabolized in the liver as are many chemotherapy agents.
Side effects: Evaluate whether the side effects and adverse effects of medical marijuana outweigh the perceived benefits. Medical marijuana, along with many FDA-approved drugs and alcohol, all have adverse effects. It is important to weigh the pros and cons.
Not a cure-all: If you choose to use medical marijuana for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, it is best to use it along with standard treatments.
False hope: Cannabis in any form, including oil, does not cure cancer. Additionally, there is no evidence that it prevents cancer. The oil can actually be toxic due to the high concentrations of chemicals. If you are going to use medical marijuana, do not think of it as a cure-all.
No quality control: Just because it is natural does not mean it is safe. Medical marijuana is not guaranteed to have the compounds that may be specified because there is no regulatory body monitoring medical marijuana manufacturing.
Variance by state: The list of acceptable conditions and the amount of medical marijuana a person is allowed to have and/or grow depends on the state in which you live. Make sure you know your state’s laws.
Addiction: It’s better not to use medical marijuana if you have a history of substance abuse. Approximately nine percent of adults who use marijuana become addicted.
If you or someone you love is considering medical marijuana, do your research, look at the references we provide, talk with others, and speak with your doctor. To get an in-depth understanding or answers to other questions about medical marijuana, watch the What You Need to Know About Medical Marijuana & CRC webinar.
The Colon Cancer Alliance does not endorse or recommend any specific treatment or screening method for colorectal cancer; rather we serve as a source of scientifically accurate medical information to help empower patients and their caregivers to make informed decisions in consultation with their health professionals.
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