Cancer Cells and Cannabis – New Research

For centuries cannabis advocates have spoken highly of the cannabis plant's anti-cancer properties. Recently, governments across the globe have increased research efforts and made allowances for cannabis in treating certain conditions.

cannabis for cancer

As the body of research grows around cannabis, more places are making medicinal allowances for the plant. The plant has been accepted for a limited number of conditions, however, cannabis in the sphere of cancer is currently only accepted for addressing chemotherapy-induced nausea. 

New evidence has emerged out of the University of Newcastle in Australia, digging deeper into the anti-cancer potential of cannabis. Various tests were carried out at the university and the Hunter Medical Research Institute and showed that a modified cannabis form has the potential to inhibit and even kill cancer cells. In addition to this, they discovered that a high CBD cannabis form didn’t influence naturally occurring cells. 

A form of low-THC cannabis, a plant known as ‘Eve’, has been produced by the Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG) and was tested by cancer researcher Dr Matt Dun at the New south Wales University. This variety has less than 1% THC but is high in CBD. 

Previous evidence has suggested that THC was the plant’s main source of anti-cancer potential. However, lab tests carried out in partnership with the ANTG showed that strains with high CBD content may be more effective in battling cancer cells. 

Dr Dunn has left some insight as to how researchers have been testing cannabis potential in the sphere of cancer over the last 3 years: 

“We initially used leukaemia cells and were really surprised by how sensitive they were. At the same time, the cannabis didn’t kill normal bone marrow cells, nor normal healthy neutrophils [white blood cells].”

Once the initial tests were complete, researchers noted that the substance used seemed to have a cancer-selective mechanism. Cannabis strains with lower levels of THC were found to be more effective against cancer cells associated with leukaemia and pediatric brainstem glioma. 

Other trials taking place have found that THC rich cannabis is more effective against the symptoms of cancer. Cannabis has been observed as having the ability to improve a cancer patients quality of life, especially those undergoing chemotherapy. 

However, Dr. Dunn has noted that THC rich cannabis may have a few setbacks for patients.  You can’t drive, for example, and clinicians are justifiably reluctant to prescribe a child something that could cause hallucinations or other side-effects. The CBD variety looks to have greater efficacy, low toxicity, and fewer side-effects, which potentially makes it an ideal complementary therapy to combine with other anti-cancer compounds.”

The research will soon enter its next phase in which researchers aim to understand what makes cancer cells more vulnerable, while others remain strong. Researchers will then assess whether their findings are clinically relevant and whether the same can be applied to other cancer types. 

These are certainly very promising, and it will be interesting to see what further research into the relationship between cancer and cannabis will uncover.

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