Can Marijuana Cure Cancer? 5 Reasons Why It (Probably) Could

cannabis-cures-cancer – It’s not uncommon these days to hear people talk about marijuana when the subject of cancer is brought up.

Stories of patients using cannabis to cure their cancer are plentiful, yet many seem to dismiss these claims as nothing more than silly rumors.

Well, it’s a lot more than just a rumor. And here are five reasons why…


1. Cannabis was used to treat tumors in ancient Egypt

The use of cannabis as a medicine dates back thousands of years to ancient China. However, it was the ancient Egyptians who first identified cancer as an illness and then found out that cannabis could treat it.

According to Dr. Ethan Russo, a 1976 translation of the 2nd Century Fayyum Medical Book is the earliest record of cannabis being used as an ingredient in tumor medications.

“[…] to paralyse [the tu]mours: extract of herbs, papyrus, sap of the hur-tree, lotus leaf, cannabis, […], heated […], sweet clover […]“

“Another (prescription): heated cannabis, sulphate of copper, ammoniac salt, to be triturated finely with (extract of) waterparsnip; to cause them to appear […]“

While the literal translation is hard to understand, it’s clear that cannabis was common in ancient Egyptian cancer treatments. The Fayyum Medical Book was written in Egyptian Demotic Script and represents a compilation of Egyptian medical knowledge dating back to the 6th Century BC.

2. An enormous amount of pre-clinical evidence suggests a role of marijuana in fighting cancer


Although the main chemical in marijuana (THC) was first isolated in the 1960′s, scientists didn’t really understand how it worked until the endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990′s. The endocannabinoid system consists of both cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors – which not only facilitate the effects of marijuana – but seem to mimic them during normal and disease conditions.

Following this, research on the medical effects of cannabinoids took off, leading to the realization of its ability to fight cancer. A 2012 review paper, published in the Nature Reviews Cancer journal, summarizes the large body of pre-clinical evidence that suggests a role of cannabinoids in fighting cancer.

“Since the late 1990s, a large body of evidence has accumulated demonstrating that various cannabinoids exert antitumour effects in a wide variety of experimental models of cancer, ranging from cancer cell lines in culture to genetically engineered mice.”

“Cannabinoids impair tumour progression at different levels. Their most prevalent effect is the induction of cancer cell death by apoptosis and the inhibition of cancer cell proliferation. At least one of these actions has been demonstrated in almost all the cancer cell types tested.”

Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in marijuana, which include THC and CBD. Both have been shown to kill cancer cells and prevent cancer from spreading in studies involving animals and cell cultures.

3. Major cancer institutes have sections on their website dedicated to cannabis

While studies on cannabis and cancer rarely make the news, people around the world are beginning to hear about this groundbreaking research. This had lead many to question why major cancer organizations have been so quiet about its potential as a treatment and a cure.

Indeed, while a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded study published in the 1970′s was the first to show that THC had tumor-fighting properties in rats with lung cancer, it wasn’t until recently that the NCI publicly acknowledged cannabinoid research.

Now, the organization’s website has a lengthy section dedicated to cannabis and cannabinoids.

“Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.”

Likewise, Cancer Research UK – the largest independent cancer research institute in the world – also addresses this topic on their website.

“Scientists have discovered that various cannabinoids (both natural and synthetic) have a wide range of effects in the lab, including:

• Triggering cell death, through a mechanism called apoptosis
• Stopping cells from dividing
• Preventing new blood vessels from growing into tumours
• Reducing the chances of cancer cells spreading through the body, by stopping cells from moving or invading neighbouring tissue
• Speeding up the cell’s internal ‘waste disposal machine’ – a process known as autophagy – which can lead to cell death”

4. The only human trial ever conducted found THC could slow tumor growth

Despite the promise that cannabis compounds have shown in cell culture and animal studies, only a single human trial has been published up until now.

The study, published in 2006 in the British Journal of Cancer, involved 9 patients with terminal gliobastoma multiforme – an aggressive brain tumor – who were given THC through a tube directly into their brain.

While all of the patients died within a year – as expected due to the severity of their conditions – 8 out of the 9 patients showed a positive response to the treatment, according to Cancer Research UK, who say the results “suggest that cannabinoids are worth pursuing in clinical trials.”

Likewise, the National Cancer Institute’s website also explains the results of the trial as showing “potential antitumoral activity” of THC. Yet 7 years later, this study remains the only human investigation to ever be published involving cannabis and cancer.

5. Studies have linked long-term marijuana use to a lower risk of cancer

Cannabis may not only be able to fight cancer, but also protect against its development. Over the years, studies have linked heavy cannabis use with a lower risk of various forms of cancer.

In 2006, a team led by Dr. Donald Tashkin published the largest epidemiologic study on smoked cannabis and cancers of the lung, neck, throat and mouth. What they found was that smoking cannabis actually lowered the risk of developing these types of cancer.

Dr. Tashkin, a pulmonary specialist who has conducted over 20 years of government research on the relationship between marijuana use and cancer, believes the anti-tumor effects of THC may be responsible for protecting marijuana users against cancer, he told TIME Magazine.

“The THC in marijuana has well-defined anti-tumoral effects that have been shown to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancers in animal models and tissue culture systems, thus counteracting the potentially tumorigenic effects of the procarcinogens in marijuana smoke.”

A more recent study, presented at the American Urological Association’s 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting, found that heavy cannabis users had a 45% reduction in risk for bladder cancer. While the results are still awaiting publication, the study spanned 11 years and included over 82,000 participants.

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