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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 24, 2011

    Scientific trials have for decades documented the anti-cancer properties of cannabis and its constituents. Yet it took until this week for the website of the National Institute of Cancer, a component of the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, to finally acknowledged the herb’s therapeutic utility for patients living with disease or suffering from the adverse side-effects of cancer treatment.

    In a newly added section to the website, entitled ‘Cannabis and Cannabinoids,’ the Institute states:

    Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

    …The potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.”

    It’s a stunning acknowledgment, given that the NIH is a branch of the very same government that presently maintains that the cannabis plant and all of its naturally-derived components have ‘no accepted medical use.’ Yet it also begs the question: Where has the National Institute of Cancer been all these years?

    After all, the anti-tumor activity of cannabinoids were initially documented in 1975! That’s right; it’s taken 36 years for the Institute to get with the program.

    Hopefully it won’t take them another 36 years to demand that the Feds finally assess whether these preclinical results are replicable in human trials.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 22, 2011

    [Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's media advisories and legislative updates delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for 'NORML News' here. To read more about the anticancer properties of cannabinoids, please see NORML's literature review here.]

    Cannabis inhalation is associated with spontaneous brain tumor regression in two subjects, according to a pair of case reports to be published in Child’s Nervous System, the official journal of the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery.

    Investigators at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver documented the mitigation of residual tumors in two adolescent subjects who regularly inhaled cannabis. Authors determined that both subjects experienced a “clear regression” of their residual brain tumors over a three-year-period.

    “Neither patient received any conventional adjuvant treatment” during this time period, investigators wrote. “The tumors regressed over the same period of time that cannabis was consumed via inhalation, raising the possibility that cannabis played a role in tumor regression.”

    Researchers concluded, “Further research may be appropriate to elucidate the increasingly recognized effect of cannabis/cannabinoids on gliomas (brain cancers).”

    A 2006 pilot study published in the British Journal of Cancer previously reported that the intratumoral administration of the cannabinoid THC was associated with reduced tumor cell proliferation in two of nine human subjects with brain cancer.

    Separate preclinical studies assessing the anticancer activity of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids indicate that the substances can inhibit the proliferation of various types of cancerous cells, including breast carcinoma, prostate carcinoma, and lung cancer.

    Commenting on the two new case reports, researcher Jahan Marcu — who has previously documented the inhibitory effects of cannabinoids on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival — wrote in the blog Freedom Is Green: “Can marijuana contribute to the regression or remission of certain cancers? Given the slow progress of clinical trials for whole plant Cannabis, it can be frustrating waiting for years, even decades, trying to answer these vital questions. But for the two young women with brain cancer in (this) report, a shift to a cannabis lifestyle may have made a difference.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 14, 2011

    From Reuters News Wire:

    Alcohol kills more than AIDS, TB or violence
    Drinking causes more than 4 percent of deaths worldwide, WHO warns

    Alcohol causes nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence, the World Health Organization warned on Friday.

    … Yet alcohol control policies are weak and remain a low priority for most governments despite drinking’s heavy toll on society from road accidents, violence, disease, child neglect and job absenteeism, it said.

    Approximately 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol related causes, the WHO said in its “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health.”

    “The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59,” the report found.

    Alcohol is a causal factor in 60 types of diseases and injuries, according to WHO’s first report on alcohol since 2004.

    Its consumption has been linked to cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, poisonings, road traffic accidents, violence, and several types of cancer, including cancers of the colorectum, breast, larynx and liver

    Of course the reason we see these startling links between alcohol consumption and disease is because ethanol, the psychoactive compound in alcohol, and acetaldehyde (what ethanol is converted to after ingestion), pose toxic risks to health cells and organs. By contrast, marijuana’s active compounds — the cannabinoids — pose little comparable risk to healthy cells and organs, and are incapable of causing fatal overdose.

    So answer me again: Why do we celebrate consumers and manufacturers of alcohol while we simultaneously target, arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate consumers and producers of a far safer substance?

    Isn’t it time to visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ and ask your elected officials that same question?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 11, 2011

    NORML has recently posted online the fourth edition of its popular and comprehensive booklet, “Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis & Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature.”

    Updated and revised for 2011, this report reviews approximately 200 newly published scientific studies assessing the safety and efficacy of marijuana and its compounds in the treatment and management of nineteen clinical indications: Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), chronic pain, diabetes mellitus, dystonia, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, gliomas and other cancers, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hypertension, incontinence, methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA), multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, pruritus, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, and Tourette’s syndrome.

    Explains the report’s lead author, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano: “The conditions profiled in this report were chosen because patients frequently inquire about the therapeutic use of cannabis to treat these disorders. In addition, many of the indications included in this report may be moderated by cannabis therapy. In several cases, preclinical data and clinical data indicates that cannabinoids may halt the progression of these diseases in a more efficacious manner than available pharmaceuticals.

    The updated report also features a new section, authored by osteopath and medical cannabis specialist Dr. Dustin Sulak, highlighting the significance of the endocannabinoid system and its role in maintaining mental and physiological health.

    “As we continue to sort through the emerging science of cannabis and cannabinoids, one thing remains clear: a functional cannabinoid system is essential for health,” writes Dr. Sulak. “From embryonic implantation on the wall of our mother’s uterus, to nursing and growth, to responding to injuries, endocannabinoids help us survive in a quickly changing and increasingly hostile environment. As I realized this, I began to wonder: can an individual enhance his/her cannabinoid system by taking supplemental cannabis? Beyond treating symptoms, beyond even curing disease, can cannabis help us prevent disease and promote health by stimulating an ancient system that is hard-wired into all of us? I now believe the answer is yes.

    Full text of the report is now available online here. Hard copies will be available for purchase shortly. Print copies of the third edition of this report will be made available at a reduced rate for those seeking bulk orders. (Please e-mail NORML for further details.)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 14, 2010

    For nearly a decade now myself and others have been highlighting the potent anti-cancer and potentially cancer preventive properties of cannabinoids.

    Now Dr. Andrew Weil, a best-selling author and world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, has lent his powerful voice to this discussion.

    Cannabis Rx: Cutting Through the Misinformation
    via Huffington Post

    [Excerpt below; read the full commentary here.] Research into possible medical uses of cannabis is enjoying a renaissance. In recent years, studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, collagen-induced arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle-cell disease, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease and anorexia nervosa.

    But perhaps most exciting, cannabinoids (chemical constituents of Cannabis, the best known being tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) may have a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. A number of studies have shown that these compounds can inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. In part, this is achieved by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow. What’s more, cannabinoids seem to kill tumor cells without affecting surrounding normal cells. If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.

    As long ago as 1975, researchers reported that cannabinoids inhibited the growth of a certain type of lung cancer cell in test tubes and in mice. Since then, laboratory studies have shown that cannabinoids have effects against tumor cells from glioblastoma (a deadly type of brain cancer) as well as those from thyroid cancer¸ leukemia/lymphoma, and skin, uterus, breast, stomach, colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

    … If you want to learn more about this subject, I recommend an excellent documentary film, “What If Cannabis Cured Cancer,” by Len Richmond, which summarizes the remarkable research findings of recent years. Most medical doctors are not aware of this information and its implications for cancer prevention and treatment. The film presents compelling evidence that our current policy on cannabis is counterproductive.

    At this past weekend’s national NORML Conference, several panelists — myself included — discussed the use of cannabinoids as selective anti-cancer agents. We also screened Len Richmond’s excellent documentary (in which I’m briefly interviewed) “What If Cannabis Cured Cancer?” (Watch the movie trailer here.)

    Fortunately, this important discussion is just now finally making its way into the mainstream. Unfortunately, it’s taken 30+ years to get the MSM to notice.

    What possible advancements in the treatment of cancer may have been achieved over the past three decades had U.S. government officials chosen to advance — rather than suppress — clinical research into the anti-cancer effects of cannabis? It’s time for the public and the media to demand an answer.

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