Treating Cancer with Cannabis

Medicinal cannabis is by no means a new concept. The truth is, humans have been using cannabis as a treatment for a variety of ailments for thousands of years. According to Chinese legend, cannabis was used as early as 2700 B.C. as a treatment for a variety ailments including gout, rheumatism, and even malaria. However, using cannabis to treat cancer is a fairly new approach, and the body of research supporting its use is growing as quickly as the plant itself.

Cancer isn’t a singular disease, it is a cellular mutation that grows and reproduces rapidly affecting the basic functions of one’s cells and vital organs that the cells inhabit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is the number two leading cause of death among Americans, preceded only by heart disease. Many of us have had personal experience with a family member, friend, or loved one that has fought a battle against this deadly disease. Despite cannabis’ classification as a schedule one drug, recent and emerging research, some of which has been presented at CannMed, suggests there are medicinal uses for cannabis that can benefit and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with cancer.

Cannabis and Chemotherapy

For individuals who have cancer, chemotherapy is often a large part of the treatment they receive. Approximately 22 percent of cancer patients receive chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a combination of medications that are used to kill, or slow the growth of, cancerous cells in the body. Which chemotherapy drugs are used largely depends on the type of cancer being treated and where in the person’s body the cancer exists. Two of the most encountered side-effects of chemotherapy are intense vomiting and nausea.

Cannabis has been shown to combat both of these side effects, offering individuals who undergo chemotherapy respite from these adverse reactions. Cannabis, and more specifically, cannabinoids have been shown to decrease pain, increase appetite, and reduce the nausea commonly encountered in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy. Additionally, cannabis can also serve to inhibit cancer progression and decrease chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.


Cannabis as an Anti-tumor Agent

As an individual’s disease progresses, cancerous cells form a mass called a tumor, which as it grows can decrease the efficacy of organs its inhabiting. As a tumor grows, it can metastasize and spread to various parts of the body. As these tumors begin to spread, the human body becomes unable to support such rapid growth, oftentimes resulting in death.

Cannabis shows great potential in its ability to fight the growth of tumors and preventing cancer’s ability to spread. In a talk given at CannMed 2017, Debra Kimless MD, detailed the promise of low-dose cannabis oil and its potential to improve the quality of life of those suffering from cancer.



Additionally, a Harvard study found that in laboratory and animal studies THC cut the growth of tumors while diminishing its ability to spread to other parts of the body.

Cannabinoids are thought to combat cancer through a variety of means including inciting apoptosis, preventing the growth of the cancerous cells, and reducing or preventing the production of traveling cancerous cells. Cannabinoids, when used as a medical treatment, are typically tolerated well by patients bypassing many of the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Cannabis demonstrated efficacy in treating a wide variety of tumors including: glioma, lymphoma, leukemia, breast, skin, and prostate. Sean McAllister, PH.D, showed evidence at CannMed 2017 that demonstrates cannabinoids’ ability to delay cancer progression, enhance palliative care outcomes, and increase survival in cancer patients.



Despite the federal government’s standing on the medicinal uses of cannabis, many professionals in the medical community and those suffering from cancer have found great promise in the use of cannabinoids. While chemotherapy is beneficial for many patients, it is also known to kill otherwise healthy cells in its efforts to destroy cancerous ones. As an alternative, cannabinoids show promise in their ability to harm cancerous cells, while leaving otherwise healthy cells intact. Since cannabis is still classified a schedule one substance by the DEA, research is into widespread medicinal use in cancer treatment is still in its infancy. As additional studies are conducted, cannabis could become a widely-used treatment for a variety of cancers and those suffering from the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Interested in learning more about the link between treating cancer and cannabis? Join us for CannMed 2018 in Los Angeles this October for all the latest research, insights, and thought leadership concerning cannabis and its uses in the treatment of cancer. Register today.

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