Cannabis and Breast Cancer: Beyond Anecdote
Although cannabis remains a Schedule 1, federally prohibited substance, this year the National Cancer Institute updated its webpage to include information about the medical use of marijuana. The site refers to studies that show that CBD caused cancer cell death in the petri dish, and that studies of mouse models of metastatic breast cancer show that “cannabinoids may lessen the growth number and spread of tumors.”
Clearly, laboratory and mouse-model studies using single extracts injected into cancerous cells are not exact parallels to the use of whole plant cannabis, but these early studies are promising. However, the process for developing pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S. can take over a decade. In the meantime, cancer patients may still find benefit from using whole plant cannabis from regulated sources.
The active cannabinoids in the marijuana plant have both individual and synergistic effects which can be helpful in alleviating symptoms of both the cancer itself, and the often-debilitating side effects of modern cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Phytocannabinoids (those produced by the natural plant) are known to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety, and appetite stimulating effects. These effects exist whether the therapies are inhaled or ingested, and we see many cancer patients finding pain relief from non-psychoactive salves as well. Lab studies are reinforcing the idea of “micro-dosing,” that is, using the minimum amount possible to achieve relief. (There is a point of diminishing returns for symptom relief, after which adding more cannabis does not achieve any further therapeutic effect.)
While the scientists pursue the cannabinoids in the laboratory, herbal remedies are available in the garden. The plant’s excellent safety profile compared to pharmaceuticals, and the education and support of regulated dispensary providers like the Wellness Connection of Maine, make it an important addition to the cancer-fighting toolkit.