Using cannabis in prostate cancer patients
In our hospital’s daily practice we notice the popular use of cannabis oil in prostate cancer (PCa) patients. As a nursing specialist for urology, I have even met patients who are so convinced of the curative benefits of cannabis oil in treating prostate cancer that they replace standard treatment with the use of cannabis oil.
These patients include those who have localised prostate cancer where active surveillance is followed, those with biochemical recurrence after treatment, and patients with metastatic PCa. I have always wondered whether cannabis oil could indeed be a cure for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, I do not see in practice the desired beneficial effect and the PSA values continue to rise. To find some answers, I did a search in scientific literature.
Cannabis, a very easy plant to grow, has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. The oldest known document about cannabis use originates from the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. It suggested that cannabis has a neuron-protective effect. The Egyptians used cannabis to treat glaucoma and as an anti-inflammatory agent (inflammation of the eyes, fever). Cannabis was even used in obstetrics (mixed with honey) and the mixture was applied in the vagina to “cool” the uterus. In the Old Testament, there is also an account of God instructing Moses to make a holy anointing olive oil-based “Kaneh Bosm.”
Cannabis contains more than 400 chemical components 80 of which contain cannabinoid components and 200 non-cannabinoids components. For medical purposes, cannabinoid substances such as THC (Delta-9-tertrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol) and non-cannabinoid substances such as terpenoids and flavonoids are relevant.
Medicinal cannabis must be distinguished from recreational cannabis which is used to achieve a psychotomimetic state of ‘high’. Cannabis strains used for recreational purposes contain a higher THC and lower CBD ratio than cannabis for medicinal use. Usually two cannabis plants are used: cannabis sativa which has a higher THC concentration and cannabis indica which has a higher CBD concentrate. The flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The terpenoids are resins (oil) with a strong odour.
In the 1990s, the endocannabinoid system (ESC) of the body was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli professor of medical chemistry. The endocannabinoid system, a central regulatory system, is the body’s largest receptor system and is important to maintain the homeostasis of the body.
Human beings produce their own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) according to need and are not stored in the body. Like endorphins, the human body produces endocannabinoids in response to activities such as physical exercise (the high of runners might be due to endocannabinoids, not endorphins!).
Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) is mainly found in the brain, and also in the lungs, the reproductive organs, etc. Cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) is usually located in the immune system and in the bones. THC mainly works on CB1 receptors, CBD on CB2 receptors.
In vitro studies with THC have shown that cannabinoids affect migration, angiogenesis and apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells, but each type of cancer appears to respond differently to the effect of exogenous cannabinoids. Many types of cancer cells have a higher concentration of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Use of cannabis in cancer
– Pain: Cannabinoids have been used for centuries to lessen pain. Historical texts and old pharmacopoeia noted the use of cannabis for menstrual cramps, pain during childbirth, and headaches. Studies have shown that the cannabinoids have no effect on acute pain and post- operative pain. Two placebo-controlled studies with a cannabis extract showed modest benefits when using cannabinoids in addition to opioids and other adjuvant pain-killers in cancer patients with chronic pain. However, the effect of cannabinoids in chronic neuropathic pain was clearly demonstrated in 29 randomized studies.
– Nausea and vomiting: An initial study in 1975 showed a beneficial effect of THC on nausea induced by chemotherapy. Subsequently, two systematic reviews showed benefits of cannabinoids in nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, but most studies were observational or uncontrolled.
– Stimulation of appetite: Cannabinoids seem to have only a modest effect in cancer patients with cachexia. More promising results were seen in studies in the population without cancer.
– Pre-clinical studies (in vitro = cells in laboratory and in vivo = in mouse model) have shown the antiproliferative, anti-metastatic, anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic effects of cannabinoids in various malignancies (lung, glioma, thyroid, lymphoma, skin, pancreas, endometrium, breast and prostate). Even if an identified substance in vitro / in vivo appears to have a beneficial effect on a disease, it is important to realise that only one in 5,000-500,000 substances obtain a registration and becomes available to the patient (after 10-16 years of different study phases). Cannabis has never been clinically studied as a treatment for malignancy.
On the Internet, patients can get a lot of information about the curative effect of cannabis oil on prostate cancer but this information extrapolate the results of pre-clinical work to possible effects in people without any factual evidence. I often see patients in the doctor’s office showing me a website where it has been proven that cannabis oil can cure prostate cancer, which is obviously their own interpretation. In my view this can be a misleading message even though the website does not explicitly provide false information. The website [See figure below] shows information which is based on a study published in the British Journal of Cancer. This is correct, but the website “neglects” to mention that this is a publication of an in vitro study. The patient might not even know what an in vitro study is and is not aware that there are no studies on humans yet to prove this.
A challenge for the caregiver can be that the patient is convinced that we as healthcare practitioners work together with the pharmacists, and that we do not wish to carry out clinical trials (unfortunately, I hear that very often). We can hardly persuade patients that this is not true.
It is also important that we inform the patient about the possible interactions of cannabis oil with certain regular medications such as Coumarin (this blood thinner interacts with cannabis oil, leading to an increase of the INR and a greater risk of bleeding!). There are different types of cannabis oil available, such as CBD and THC oils with different concentrations which makes it difficult for patients to make a choice.
• There is no proof of cannabis oil as cure for prostate cancer;
• It is important not to be prejudiced or judgmental against patients who use cannabis oil;
• Listening to the patient’s view can be helpful since the patient often confides to the nurse rather than to their physicians;
• Avoid persuading patients not to use cannabis oil, but try to convince them of the need to follow a regular treatment combined with cannabis oil;
• Consider adverse interactions between cannabis oil and certain medications and inform your patient about these.
Can Cannabis Oil Cure Prostate Cancer?
Cannabis oil has been on the minds of men with prostate cancer. It seems that many people want to know if cannabis oil can cure prostate cancer. If you ask any man who has used cannabis oil for prostate cancer and had his cancer go in remission, the answer is yes. If you ask a scientist, the answer will be that there is not a lot of data on the medical uses of cannabis oil. Read on to learn more about this alternative treatment for prostate cancer.
What Is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis oil comes from Cannabis sativa, a plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. This plant goes by many names, such as marijuana, hemp, or cannabis. Scientists have discovered in cannabis 66 biologically active components that are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are a group of compounds found in Cannabis species (Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis indica Lam.). The most powerful cannabinoid is thought to be the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. Other substances in the plant are also being studied for their medical benefits. Cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects. Hemp generally refers to the stalks and sterilized seeds, which have a much lower concentration of THC, and hempseed oil is more of a health food.
Health Benefits of Cannabis Oil vs. Hempseed Oil
The THC in cannabis is known to relieve pain, control nausea and vomiting, and stimulate appetite in people with cancer and AIDS. There are studies that suggest that cannabis oil or hemp oil can shrink cancer tumors as well as diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, migraines, insomnia, infections, skin cancer, and many other diseases.
Hempseed oil is considered a superfood with high levels of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and protein. The plant has a unique ratio of omega-3, omega-6, and GLA of 2:5:1. Hempseed oil is made from varieties of C. sativa that do not have a lot of THC, namely 0.3% or less. The phytosterols may offer some protection against prostate and other cancers, but hempseed oil does not contain the cannabinoids found in cannabis oil. You can also buy hempseed oil online or at a health food store.
Can Cannabis Oil Cure Prostate Cancer?
What proponents like about cannabis oil is that it is a natural treatment that does not seem to cause harm to other cells in the body and is better tolerated than chemotherapy. Unfortunately there are few reputable US studies on Cannabis for treating humans for prostate cancer. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence however of cannabis oil shrinking prostate cancer tumors while reducing pain, eliminating insomnia, and helping the patients have a general sense of well-being.
There are many stories of people who have used cannabis oil to shrink prostate cancer tumors, and many of the people had success combining the oil with traditional therapies to fight their cancer. The problem with getting hard data and studies is that United States laws make it challenging for clinical studies on the marijuana plant to take place. Plus, there seems to be a lack of funding for the research. The studies that have taken place tend to focus on symptoms (such as pain relief and nausea) rather than the efficacy of the cannabis oil to shrink cancer tumors.
Can Cannabis Oil Help with Cancer Symptoms?
Cannabis oil contains cannabinoids. The potential benefits of cannabis oil is for relieving prostate cancer are shrinking tumors, pain relief, improved sleep, and and over feeling of well-being. Doctors who prescribe or recommend cannabis to cancer patients most commonly to do so for symptom management.
Are There Any Facts Showing Cannabis Works?
There are limited studies on medical uses for the cannabis plant. Most of the research involves cannabinoids, including THC, and not the low-THC hempseed oil.
In 1997, the US Government authorized an in-depth investigation into the medical use of marijuana. The Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to study the risks and health benefits of marijuana. The IOM offered several conclusions regarding the usefulness of medical marijuana.
According to the IOM, scientific data shows that cannabinoids, THC in particular, have some potential to relieve pain, control nausea and vomiting, and stimulate appetite. The effect of cannabinoids on the immune system is not clear. The research found that the reduced anxiety, sedation, and euphoria from cannabinoids could help certain patients and situations, but this could be distressing for others.
The researchers reviewed many studies and found that smoking marijuana delivers harmful substances and could increase lung diseases and certain types of cancer. Because marijuana contains many active compounds, the drug cannot provide precise effects unless they isolate individual components.
In recent discussions, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) can kill or slow the growth of certain cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes. Some studies involving animals also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer. The problem is that these substances have not been tested in humans. At this time there is not any scientific evidence from US controlled studies in humans that cannabinoids can cure or treat cancer in people.
In 2008, a team of scientists in a combined effort between Spain, France, and Italy conducted laboratory tests that they published in The Journal Of Clinical Investigation. The researchers showed THC as a cure for brain cancer as well as had the ability to terminate other cancer cells in the body. They found that THC inhibits cell death and tumor metastasis while not affecting and maybe even protecting normal cells.
Is Cannabis Legal?
Cannabis is a controlled substance that classified as a Schedule I agent (which means that it is a drug with increased potential for abuse and no known medical use).
Legal Facts about Cannabis:
- By federal law, the possession of Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is illegal in the United States.
- Several states have medical marijuana laws that allow medical use of cannabis.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.
- Cannabinoids are chemical components of cannabis. Some cannabinoids such as dronabinol and nabilone are approved for the treatment of cancer-related side effects.
Laws define marijuana as, “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin. It does not include the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.”
How Do You Get Cannabis Oil?
You can make your own cannabis oil. You can read about this at CureYourOwnCancer.org. How much to take and how potent your oil will be are good questions. There just are not solid answers. Patients start by taking an amount about the size of a grain of rice and ramp up the amount.
A group in Santa Cruz, CA, called the Wo/men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), make a cannabis oil (from organic herb they grow) called “Milagro oil,” to treat various conditions. For cancer they recommend a gram of oil per day for 60 days, although some patients are affected by the psychoactive side effect. Diluting with hempseed oil is helpful for those cases.
There are several videos about how to make cannabis oil hosted by Rick Simpson online. Simpson has been providing people with instructions for making this oil for years and has politically active in getting word out about the medical value and cancer-fighting properties in cannabis oil. He has testimonials from patients on his site. The oil is usually ingested for cancer, but is also used topically or vaporized for other conditions. The process involves highly flammable alcohol and needs to be done with caution.
The level of cannabinoid in the cannabis plant is unpredictable and lower than the doses that have been used in animal studies; therefore any benefit from this compound requires the use of a purified and concentrated form. This applies to cannabis oil, because purified oils contain about the same ratios of compounds as the plants from which they come. Even though some fans of cannabis oil prefer to use Cannabis indica (rather than C. sativa) for its higher cannabidiol levels and lower THC levels, the levels are not consistent or predictable.
If you are interested in cannabis for treating prostate cancer, do further research on this drug. Be sure to check the laws in your state or country and talk to your doctor about possible complications.
Raw Michelle. Cannabis oil is a highly efficient cancer cure. NaturalNews.com. 28 Sept 2011.
Sircus, Mark. Spain Study Confirms Cannabis Oil Cures Cancer. Zen-Haven. 22 May 2013.
Simpson, Rick. Run From the Cure: How Cannabis Cures Cancer and Why No One Knows. Cannabis Culture. 7 Mar 2008.
Velasco G, Sánchez C, Guzmán M: Towards the use of cannabinoids as antitumour agents. Nat Rev Cancer 12 (6): 436-44, 2012.Cannabis oil cure for prostate canner may be an alternative treatment for prostate cancer, but there is not a lot of research or hard data on this treatment ]]>