Many women are diagnosed with breast cancer and this deadly disease also affects their families. It is the most common malignant disease in Western women and statistics says it represents 22.9% of all cancer cases in women throughout the world. In 2008, breast cancer caused over 450,000 deaths in the world.
Canabinoids and Cancer
The healing properties of marijuana were first documented over thousands years ago, but the therapeutic effect of cannabinoids in cancer therapies was recently discovered.
Cannabinoids are medical compounds found in marijuana. Since the late 1990s until now, many preclinical studies have proven the antitumor effect of cannabinoids in the treatment of different types of cancer.
Studies have shown that cannabinoid receptors are over-expressed in tumor cells of some cancer types, including liver, lung, prostate and breast cancer. Researchers believe that the endocannabinoid system can be regulated in an innate biological effort to stop the disease.
These studies have also shown that when cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they inhibit cancer growth by preventing the proliferation of cancer cells and inducing apoptosis, or cancer cell death. Cannabinoids can impair both tumor angiogenesis, or the increase in localized blood flow induced by cancer cells, and metastasis, or the spreading of cancer to other organs and tissues.
Cannabinoids and Breast Cancer
Medical findings regarding breast cancer
have progressed lately, but certain breast tumors are still resistant to the conventional treatments. Breast cancer comprises of tumors that differ in their molecular profiles, and medical experts categorize it in three main types.
Researchers suggest that synthetic cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (mostly THC and CBD) can be efficient in the treatment of breast cancer subtypes, and the strongest evidence of their therapeutic potential points to the treatment of HER2-positive and triple-negative breast tumor types.
The healing power of cannabinoids is especially important for patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, because there is no conventional therapy for such patients and the prognosis for these patients is still poor.
In addition to the anti-cancer properties, studies have also shown that cannabinoids are much safer and less toxic than conventional treatments. Cannabinoids do not affect normal cells and patients can tolerate them. They only cause mild side-effects, like dizziness and fatigue.
This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects. Dr. Sean McAllister
In 2007, Dr. Sean McAllister and his team of researchers were some of the first experts to discover that CBDs anti-cancer properties can be effectively used in the treatment of breast cancer.
As the research shows, cannabinoids provide a wide range of benefits in cancer treatments, including prevention of vomiting and nausea that appear as a result of chemotherapy and treatments that reduce cancer-associated pain.
When combined with regular cancer treatments, cannabinoids can induce a synergistic effect against cancer cells, and this also suggests that by combining conventional and cannabinoid treatments you get more powerful results than the application of each treatment alone.
Clinical Application: The Current State
Unfortunately, scientific studies based on the effect provided by cannabinoids, regarding the treatment of breast cancer, are limited to preclinical trials that involve cell cultures and laboratory animals.
Scientists believe that the world requires further preclinical trials to identify the target group that is most appropriate to receive a cannabinoid-based treatment, and which cannabinoids are the best option for patients before these trials can develop further into a clinical stage.
Until this factor is established, it is unlikely that oncology professionals could prescribe cannabinoid medicine to patients with breast cancer, even though researchers keep asserting the need for health professionals to be more aware of these cannabinoid studies.
According to an update of 2013, published in the Oncology Nursing Forum, associate editor Susan Weiss Behrend gave her conclusion:
…cannabinoids have demonstrated antitumor activity in preclinical breast cancer models. Practicing oncology professionals need to be aware of the clinical potential of these agents… Susan Weiss Behrend, RN
Medical marijuana is inaccessible for most people, but cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals like Marinol and Cesamet (synthetic THC, oral capsules) are available to patients diagnosed with cancer, and they are essential for the treatment of nausea which occurs as a result of the chemo treatment. Sativex, a natural-cannabinoid derived mouth spray, is approved in Canada, and patients can use it to treat pain caused by cancer.
Modern cannabinoid-based studies keep providing evidence on the anti-cancer properties of these compounds, and patients should be optimistic about the future of cancer studies and the importance of marijuana treatments that may become the strongest aid in the fight against the deadly disease.
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