Medical Marijuana: The Future of Breast Cancer Therapy?

Many people’s lives and their families all over the world have been affected by this horrible disease known as breast cancer.

Breast cancer accounts for 22.9% of all cancers in women across the globe and remains the most common malignancy among western women. In 2008, over 450,000 deaths worldwide were reported as cases suffering from breast cancer.Medical Marijuana The Future of Breast Cancer Therapy


Even though the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids – the medical compounds found in marijuana – in the treatment of cancer has only been discovered recently, the medical properties of marijuana were first documented by human civilization over a thousand years ago. Numerous preclinical studies since the late 1990s, have demonstrated the antitumor effects of cannabinoids in a variety of cancers.

Studies show that cannabinoid receptors are over – expressed in the tumor cells of certain cancers, such as cancers of the prostate, lung, liver and breast. That is why researchers have been led to believe that the endocannabinoid system may be up – regulated in cancer in an innate biological effort to fight off this disease.

It is also shown in the studies that when cannabinoids were administered to connect to these receptors, they were able to inhibit cancer cell growth by inducing cancer cell death (apoptosis) and by preventing the proliferation of cancer cells. Furthermore, cannabinoids have been found to impair both metastasis – the spreading of cancer to other organs and tumor angiogenesis – the increase in localized blood flow induced by tumor cells.


Even though medical advancements in breast cancer have progressed greatly in the few recent decades, certain breast tumors are still resistant to conventional treatments. Medical professionals categorized breast cancer into 3 main subtypes because it is comprised of tumors that are distinct in their molecular profiles.

Research suggests that synthetic phytocannabinoids and cannabinoids (mainly CBD and THC  ) may be useful in treating all 3 subtypes of breast cancer, with the strongest evidence of therapeutic potential pointing to treatment of triple – negative breast tumors and HER2 – positive. There is no standard therapy that currently exists and prognosis for this group of patients is poor, and the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids is particularly important for patients with triple – negative breast cancer.

In addition to their anti – cancer effects, research also shows that cannabinoids are considerably less toxic and safer than any conventional treatments. Cannabinoids are well tolerated by patients and are non – toxic to non – tumor cells – only eliciting relatively mild side – effects such as fatigue and dizziness .
Dr. Sean McAllister said: “This compound offers the hope of a non – toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.”

Dr. Sean McAllister and his team of researchers in 2007 were one of the first to discover that cancer – fighting properties of CBD’s could be successfully applied to breast cancer.

As it turns out, in the treatment of cancer cannabinoids can provide a variety of other benefits, including the prevention of vomiting and nausea associated with reduction of cancer – associated pain and standard chemotherapeutic treatments. The research also showed that, cannabinoids when combined with conventional cancer treatments are able to induce a synergistic action against tumor and cancer cells, suggesting that the combination of cannabinoid – based and conventional treatments may be more powerful than the administration of either treatment alone.


Unfortunately, the scientific research on the effects of cannabinoids on breast cancer has been limited to preclinical trials involving animal models and cell cultures. Researchers believe that further preclinical trials are necessary to identify which cannabinoids specifically present the best therapeutic option for patients and which patient population is the most appropriate for cannabinoid treatment before trials can advance to the clinical stage.

Until they don’t establish these factors, oncologists will surely avoid prescribing cannabinoid – based medicine for the treatment of breast cancer, even though the research authors are asserting the need for health professionals to continue to be aware of cannabinoid research.

Oncology Nursing Forum published a recent update in 2013, where associate editor Susan Weiss Behrend concluded:
“…in preclinical breast cancer models, cannabinoids have demonstrated antitumor activity. Practicing oncology professionals need to be aware of the clinical potential of these agents…” – Susan Weiss Behrend, RN

Even though medical marijuana is inaccessible for most, cannabinoid – based pharmaceuticals such as Cesamet and Marinol (synthetic THC oral capsules) are available to cancer patients all over the world for the treatment of nausea induced by chemotherapy. Also, Sativex (a mouth spray derived from natural – cannabinoid) has been approved in Canada for the treatment of pain associated with cancer.

As modern cannabinoid research continues and flourishes to provide strong evidence of the cancer – fighting effects of these compounds, patients should be optimistic about the emerging role of marijuana – based treatments and cancer researches in the future that may one day take the main role in the battle against this horrifying disease.


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