The National Cancer Institute, a division of the US Department of Health, released newly revised publications suggesting marijuana can do more than help manage the side effects of cancer and cancer treatment, saying that it could actually kill cancer cells and possibly shrink tumors.
Prescribing medicinal marijuana to cancer patients is a fairly common phenomenon in the US. Often, it is used to reduce inflammation and pain levels in those fighting the disease while also reducing stress and anxiety, providing relief from muscle spasms, and helping with appetite and lessening nausea.
However, a recently added statement on the National Cancer Institute site is what is drawing new interest. It says, “Cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.”
The new declaration is based on preclinical trials that showed “cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow.”
Laboratory studies have shown potentially promising results for fighting certain forms of colon, liver, and breast cancers. An additional study demonstrated that a particular cannabinoid, cannabidiol, may also “make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells.”
Preclinical studies typically measure the effectiveness of a potential treatment in a laboratory setting, examining the impact on cells, which may be human in origin, that are outside of a living person. It can also refer to the testing of a treatment plan through the use of animal trials.
The National Cancer Institute does go on to remind the public that “cannabis is not approved by the FDA for use as a cancer treatment.” At this time, studies related to the use of marijuana to reduce tumor sizes and kill cancer cells are in the preclinical phase, meaning that human trials have not begun.
There are currently no clinical trials for the use of cannabis as a cancer treatment listed with the National Institute of Health.
Based on current US federal law, the possession of marijuana is still illegal, though many states and territories have approved its medicinal use and some have even passed legislation to allow recreational use. Cannabis is considered a Schedule I agent by the federal government, a position that states marijuana has a “high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.”