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Study: Synthetic THC Shows Promise As ‘Alternative Drug’ For Stomach Cancer
Fluorouracil – sold as Adrucil or Efudex – is the most common form of chemotherapy used for cancers of the stomach and intestine, despite only helping about 20% of patients.
But there may be hope for the other 80%, according to ground-breaking findings published last month in the Anticancer Research journal.
Using chemotherapy-resistant cancer cells, the researchers observed a remarkable reduction in the survival of the cells that were exposed to a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main chemical found in cannabis.
What’s more, treatment with THC had a dose-dependent effect on the cancer cells – larger doses of THC led to higher rates of cancer cell death.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that cannabinoids – the scientific name for compounds like THC – could be an “alternative chemotherapeutic agent” for stomach cancer that fails to respond to chemotherapy.
In recent years, scientists have gained a much clearer understanding of how THC works – by activating a biological system known as the endocannabinoid system.
Natural adaptations of the endocannabinoid system have also been observed in various types of cancer, leading many researchers to suggest that cannabinoids may play a role in the body’s natural defense against cancer.
Although the study was conducted using a synthetic version of THC called WIN-55,212-2, the authors point to previous studies where plant-derived THC has demonstrated similar effects.
Along with other compounds found in marijuana, THC has been shown to slow the growth and spread of cancer cells as well as cause cancer cells to kill themselves – a process known as apoptosis. And unlike chemotherapy, cannabis compounds leave healthy cells unharmed.
But the connection between THC and marijuana leads some to believe that political barriers prevent human studies from being conducted.
According to former Department of Health (UK) advisor Dr. David Nutt, “this hindering of research and therapy is motivated by politics, not science.”
Previous studies published by the Korean researchers seem to support this notion. By the end of 2011, lead author Dr. Jerry Park had published two separate studies showing that THC compounds were effective at fighting stomach cancer.
But despite calling for more advanced trials, Dr. Park’s research on cannabinoids and stomach cancer has yet to progress from observing these promising chemotherapy alternatives at the microscopic level.