Cancer is the one disease that has, by now, affected nearly every family in the world. It kills somewhere around 8.2 million people each year. And while medical treatments for this vile affliction have been improving over the past few decades, science is still a long way off from developing a definitive cure. There are some who say that marijuana could be the solution, and, believe it or not, there is a small body of evidence to back that up this claim. In fact, a recent study shows that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant, has the ability to improve cancer survival rates in mice when combined with a chemotherapy regimen.
We have known for years that marijuana can be beneficial in helping cancer patients deal with the nasty side effects of chemotherapy. Most recently, the CBD compound itself has been shown to help those undergoing chemo better deal with nausea. Yet, if the latest research coming out of the Queen Mary University of London holds any weight, whatsoever, CBD may also have cancer-fighting properties that could eventually help humans with certain forms of this disease live longer. But let’s not call it a cancer cure. CBD is only showing promise as a supplemental treatment option.
“Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics [in the UK], which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials,” said lead researcher Dr. Marco Falasca.
Unfortunately, scientists in the United States are met with much resistance when it comes to trying to study even non-intoxicating forms of marijuana. Since the herb remains a Schedule I drug on the Controlled Substances Act, it has “no known medical value,” and is considered as dangerous as heroin. For this reason, studies designed to explore the medical benefits of anything derived from the cannabis plant are few and far between.
There could, however, be some improvement with respect to the bureaucracies surrounding CBD research, as the FDA recently approved the first-ever cannabis-based drug – Epidiolex – for distribution in the United States. A recent report from Forbes shows that the DEA must now reschedule the CBD compound in order to GW Pharmaceuticals to bring this product to market. If this happens, researchers would likely have an easier time conducting studies dealing with this particular cannabinoid.
According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is one of the most common and aggressive forms of this disease. Dr. Falasca’s study, which was paid for by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, found that mice treated with both chemotherapy and CBD lived an average of 56 days, compared to 20 days for those mice that didn’t receive treatment. Mice receiving chemotherapy alone only survived a little over 23 days.
“The life expectancy for pancreatic cancer patients has barely changed in the last 40 years because there are very few, and mostly only palliative care, treatments available,” Dr. Falasca said in a press statement.
“Given the five-year survival rate for people with pancreatic cancer is less than seven percent, the discovery of new treatments and therapeutic strategies is urgently needed.”
But without immediate access to additional research opportunities, it could be decades before we understand the true healing powers of this plant. There is hope that Canada, which is set to legalize marijuana for recreational use in October, will provide researchers with more opportunities to examine the reach of the cannabis plant.