Lets Get Something Straight: Marijuana is Not a Cancer Treatment

October 5th, 2013

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I should first state that I am not categorically opposed to medical marijuana.   I do have some reservations about doctors prescribing something which is all too often in a crude, unmeasured and inconsistent form.  I have reservations about the fact that medical marijuana seems to occasionally mix the pothead culture with actual medicine, which it really should not do.

But I certainly have no ethical objection to the use of cannabis to relieve the symptoms of those suffering.   If it works, great.  If it works and can be extracted into a measured, quality-controlled pill, even better.

I honestly do not even have any objection to the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.   As long as you are not smoking up and then driving a car or operating machinery, while intoxicated, knock yourself out.

But lets make something clear:  Marijuana is not a treatment or cure for cancer.   It relieves some of the symptoms of the treatments that do effect cancer.  It can sometimes even reduce the symptoms of the cancer itself.   It can reduce pain, restore appetite, act as a tranquilizer and, in some circumstances, some of the compounds present may reduce certain forms of inflammation.   To a cancer patient who has lost their appetite and is losing weight as a result of chemotherapy induced-nausea, it can be a huge help.

But it is not an actual treatment for cancer!

There have been a number of reports and postings out there which claim that studies have found marijuana can cure cancer.  For example, this post claims that there are twenty studies that show cannabis is a cure for cancer. The studies are real, but the conclusion drawn is not correct.  In fact, what these studies seem to indicate is that some of the compounds, which can be extracted from cannabis, may have certain biological effects that could be of use in treating cancer. For example, some of the compounds may reduce the growth rate of certain tumor cells.

This really is not something to get that excited about. Many compounds will slow the growth of cancer cells in a petri dish, but making them work in the human body is much more complex. Side effects on healthy cells are common and proper delivery to the cancer cells can be difficult. Although a handful of studies have been conducted in humans, they were all small scale and provide only preliminary data. According to the National Cancer Institutes, there is only one human study to return evidence of potential therapeutic effects against cancer. The study did not involve the use of marijuana itself but rather the injection of delta-9-THC, a chemical extracted from marijuana, into the tumors of patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. The study found potential anti-tumor effects, but they were not that dramatic.

There are a handful of small scale laboratory studies which have shown potential anti-cancer properties of canaboids. Delta-9-THC has been shown to effect the growth rate of some forms of cancer cells. Evidence also exists that canaboids could reduce inflammation that may be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

It must be stressed that in all cases, even if this limited evidence is viewed in the most optimistic way possible, it does not make cannabis a cancer cure. At best, it means some compounds may be worth combining with traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.

But nobody would be so stupid as to think marijuana is an effective treatment or even cure for cancer, right…?


Via 7 News Denver:

Colorado mom chooses cannabis over chemotherapy to fight’s son’s leukemia

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A mother in Colorado Springs has decided on cannabis, instead of chemo, to fight her son’s leukemia.

Landon Riddle is three years old. Eight months ago, he was struggling on chemotherapy.

“Within three months, we could all see that chemo was killing Landon,” said Landon’s mother, Sierra Riddle. “He would vomit like 50 times a day. No pharmaceuticals would stop it.”

Riddle found an alternative — medical marijuana in the form of capsules.

Riddle said she was skeptical at first, but “within four weeks we could see the improvement.”

Landon takes four liquid capsules of cannabis a day instead of the 25 pills a day he was taking on chemotherapy.

Riddle says Landon is now in remission.

While it worked for them, not everyone agrees. Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs was so concerned Landon wasn’t using chemotherapy that someone called child protective services. Riddle told KRDO-TV that she’ll meet with them on Wednesday and plans to prove that medical marijuana is a safe alternative.

I am not sure what is worse, the news story or the commends.

First, it is important to note that childhood leukemia is far from a death sentence with modern chemotherapy.   Although untreated, the mortality is near 100%, today more than 90% of young children with leukemia survive the disease and can go on to live normal lives.

Of course, chemotherapy is no picnick.  All I can assume is that nobody ever explained to this woman the most basic concepts of what cancer is and what chemotherapy is.  Chemotherapy is literally poison.  It is a treatment designed to kill cells in the body, targeting cancer cells especially.  Unfortunately, it is not perfect.  While the chemicals are chosen to be more destructive to cancer than other cells, they are not completely selective.

Figuring out how to kill some cells within the body and not others is not easy.  One of the most difficult problems with cancer treatment is that the invader causing damage is not foreign, but is the body’s own cells.  The fact that chemotherapy agents work as well as they do is the result of decades of research and development.

It is likely that Landon’s leukemia was substantially reduced by the chemotherapy he did receive, but ending it early is still very dangerous.   Without a full course of chemotherapy, the disease is either unlikely to be stopped, or there is a very high probability that there are still active cancer cells, which will result in the return of the disease after the therapy is stopped.

That is exactly what happened.  Landon now appears to be much healthier.  That’s not a surprise at all.  That’s exactly what you would expect, since it is the chemotherapy that causes most of the visible symptoms.  But the chemotherapy won’t kill him and the cancer easily can.

I really hope that he is removed from the custody of his idiot mother, because he does not deserve to die because she believes marijuana is a better treatment for cancer than real medicine.  Neglecting treatment could easily result in complete regression of the condition and his death.


This entry was posted on Saturday, October 5th, 2013 at 6:46 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Misc, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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18 Responses to “Lets Get Something Straight: Marijuana is Not a Cancer Treatment”

  1. 1
    Jason C Says:

    I’m glad that someone finally made a reasonable post about this. Cannabis advocates can be quite over-zealous in their selling of the benefits for legalization. That’s understandable as the cannabis prohibition laws have restricted a lot of potential research for compounds produced by the plant. So anytime there is a glimmer of potential, it’s going to be oversold.

    That aside, there needs to be a nationwide reform on cannabis laws. I have personally met people who’ve done a few years in jail for a small bag of cannabis (3-5 grams). And what a ridiculous waste of resources it is to jail those people for a non-violent “offense”.

    If we move toward a sustainable and sensible legalization framework for cannabis, the hype will calm down. People will be too busy creating and managing legal enterprises surrounding the production and distribution of cannabis and researchers can finally do the research needed without jumping through all kinds of hoops.


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  2. 2
    Chris Brown Says:

    Doctors do not “prescribe” Mj – because federal law does not allow that. They “make recommendations.” In California the recommendation can be verbal (as in “dude go smoke a bowl.”) Having been involved in probably a hundred MJ investigations over the last 15 years I can tell you NEVER have I seen an MJ crop raised in a manner that I would consider safe to ingest or inhale. Most of the time pesticides are all over the grow and preparation areas. Various unknown powers and put on the plants. Waste oil and fuel are present in the production area. Human waste is not properly managed. There are no handwashing stations. Basically you have a big pile of chemicals, some plastic pipe a few pop up greenhouses, a pit toilet and a whole bunch of money changing hands. Nobody in the production side of the business has a licence, permit or is otherwise inspected for product safety or quality control. I am suprised there are not more deaths from contamination.


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  3. 3
    Christopher Says:

    More on dope – dead bodies.

    http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20131005/articles/131009694?title=North-Coast-marijuana-trade%27s-deadly-toll?title=North-Coast-pot-trade's-deadly-toll-#page=1


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  4. 4
    drbuzz0 Says:

    Since I have been asked, I will state for the record:

    Regarding Marijuana:
    I have no problem with it used relationally. If you are an adult, not operating machinery or driving, I don’t care what you do. I’ve known plenty who use it. If it is going to be grown by the individual, fine. If it is grown industrially, it should conform to basic agricultural standards, the way tobacco or anything else does.

    Regarding Medical Marijuana:

    I have no problem with the use of marijuana-derived chemicals used to relieve pain or treat disease. My problem is it is too often a departure from basic medical standards.

    No doctor should ever recommend getting your pharmaceuticals by burning a plant and inhaling the smoke or even by eating plant matter. There are plenty of plant-based drugs, but quality control and consistency demands that the chemicals be extracted, purified, measured and packaged in FDA-monitored facilities.

    If a doctor writes a prescription for cannabis-derived chemicals, it should be filled at a normal pharmacy, not a place that looks like a head shop. It should be a sterile, measured amount of active ingredient. It could be in the form of a pill, nasal spray, inhaler or whatever. It just has to be pure and consistent.

    These liquid THC pills apparently have no oversight and near as I can tell, people make this stuff on their stovetops and then pack the pills at home or in amateurish operations.

    I do blame marijuana law for this, though. Cannabis is a schedule I narcotic. It makes it very difficult to get any permit to use it for anything, even research. This is why there are only a handful of approved cannabis-derived drugs on the market.

    It’s ridiculous. We stopped telling people to smoke opium poppies a century ago. I would have thought we were beyond in general.


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  5. 5
    Loren Pechtel Says:

    @Chris Brown: I think the reason the poor grow conditions don’t cause more problems is that it’s smoked–fire is hot enough it’s going to sterilize the material.

    As for the point of the post–I recall reading about a guy who remained alive and healthy due to using marijuana for his cancer. It was *NOT* a cure but the tumor was slow enough growing that it wasn’t a threat–but it was an adrenal cancer, his adrenaline levels should have killed him.


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  6. 6
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Loren Pechtel said:

    As for the point of the post–I recall reading about a guy who remained alive and healthy due to using marijuana for his cancer. It was *NOT* a cure but the tumor was slow enough growing that it wasn’t a threat–but it was an adrenal cancer, his adrenaline levels should have killed him.

    Well, to begin with, that’s a pretty vague description of something without citation

    Even so, if it is true, so what? Some tumors are really slow growing. Some people have abnormal body chemistry or can build a tolerance to hormones.

    Since it’s one individual, it’s impossible to know if it even has anything to do with marijuana.


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  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

    The bottom line here of course is that if any chemicals in the hemp plant are thought to have some therapeutic value they should be isolated and proven effective through standard protocols and if found useful prepared and delivered to patients in the best form possible. Anything else is an insult to common sense.

    As for recreational use, as it is obviously impossible to stop it should be regulated and taxed. At least taxes generated from its sale will help offset some of the societal costs unrestricted use of this product will engender. And one way or the other, there will be costs – believing otherwise is naive.


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  8. 8
    Paul Studier Says:

            Loren Pechtel said:

    As for the point of the post–I recall reading about a guy who remained alive and healthy due to using marijuana for his cancer. It was *NOT* a cure but the tumor was slow enough growing that it wasn’t a threat–but it was an adrenal cancer, his adrenaline levels should have killed him.

    This was Steve Kubby, see
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Kubby


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  9. 9
    DV82XL Says:

    Slightly off topic but still of some relevance.

    It seems that the new leader of Canada’s federal Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, is going to make full legalization of marijuana a plank in the party’s platform for the next election. This announced at the same time he admitted to having enjoyed a doob now and then with his wife and some friends after the kids were in bed since elected to a seat in the Commons.

    Naturally this has been met with wide grins among younger voters and much harumphing from the governing Conservative Party, (most of whom I suspect are chronic alcoholics) as well as injecting a bit of life into the summer’s political doldrums up here.


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  10. 10
    justdutch Says:

    I don’t think removing the boy from his mothers custody would do either of them much good. Although it may help the boy in terms of health, it would not help in terms of a stable home to grow up in.

    Much better would be someone taking the time to get the point through his mothers thick skull that he needs proper treatment. Removing a child from custody should only be a last resort. If the issue can be resolved without resorting to it, everyone involved will be much better off.


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  11. 11
    drbuzz0 Says:

            justdutch said:

    I don’t think removing the boy from his mothers custody would do either of them much good. Although it may help the boy in terms of health, it would not help in terms of a stable home to grow up in.

    Much better would be someone taking the time to get the point through his mothers thick skull that he needs proper treatment. Removing a child from custody should only be a last resort. If the issue can be resolved without resorting to it, everyone involved will be much better off.

    I suppose it would be better to talk her out of it, but we do remove kids when they are in danger of death.

    Yes, being in a stable home is best, but an unstable living situation is preferable to death.


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  12. 12
    Gordon Says:

            Paul Studier said:

    This was Steve Kubby, see
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Kubby

    Even if it is true (and I doubt there is serious verification) you still can’t say much from one individual case, especially given it has anecdotal documentation.

            DV82XL said:

    Slightly off topic but still of some relevance.

    It seems that the new leader of Canada’s federal Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau, is going to make full legalization of marijuana a plank in the party’s platform for the next election. This announced at the same time he admitted to having enjoyed a doob now and then with his wife and some friends after the kids were in bed since elected to a seat in the Commons.

    Naturally this has been met with wide grins among younger voters and much harumphing from the governing Conservative Party, (most of whom I suspect are chronic alcoholics) as well as injecting a bit of life into the summer’s political doldrums up here.

    Unfortunately, the conservatives and the older generation (who vote) probably have not reached the point where they can accept this kind of thing. Our culture seems to have reached the point where it is now acceptable for a politician to admit they had used it and chalk it up to youthful indiscretions. However, the idea that they might have used it in adulthood or even still use it seems like it would continue to offend a large segment of the population.

    Personally, I do not care. I have not used pot in more than twenty years, but I don’t care if you do.


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  13. 13
    DV82XL Says:

            Gordon said:

    Unfortunately, the conservatives and the older generation (who vote) probably have not reached the point where they can accept this kind of thing.

    It would be a mistake to think that the Progressive Conservatives came to power in Canada because the bulk of the votes were ideologically aligned with them considering the majority of the popular vote was split between two basically Left leaning parties. While I would not bet that the Liberals will win the next federal election on the strength of its leader’s support for legalization alone, it is very likely that this position will draw votes away from the New Democrats who seem to be thrashing a bit on this issue.

    Regardless, in many countries the mood seems to be changing and the general trend is towards a more relaxed set of laws, so if it isn’t now it’s going to be later for this matter, one way or the other.


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  14. 14
    Mark Says:

    I have to disagree here bigtime. pot never killed anyone. chemo kills. It is poison and most people with cancer would live if you gave their body proper nutrition to heal itself. Chemo feeds cancer and kills the person. 99% of people with cancer are not even very sick until the chemo starts. It is the chemo that does the killing and actually feeds the cancer, which might have even gone away on its own.

    Pot is natural. It wont cure cancer because no one substance will cure cancer. Healing cancer is about restoring ballance. that means many different plants and nutrients. Organically grown vegitables and fruit combines with detox and proper living and eating and herbal meds. None of them can do it alone, but together cancer can be healed. Marijuana may be one of the plants, but everyones plan is unique to them.

    The only way to be sure of failure and death is chemo. Chemo is one of the most evil profit schemes ever.


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  15. 15
    Loren Pechtel Says:

    Mark, what snake oil are you trying to set us up for??

    Chemo most certainly is poison–that’s what it’s designed to be. It’s just poison that cancer cells are more vulnerable to than normal cells. It most certainly does not feed cancer.

    I do agree they’re mostly not very sick before chemo–that proves nothing. Until the tumor eats into something important it produces very few if any symptoms. That doesn’t mean it won’t eat something vital if left to grow unchecked.

    *IF* your reasoning were right health nuts wouldn’t get cancer. They do, however.


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  16. 16
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Loren Pechtel said:

    *IF* your reasoning were right health nuts wouldn’t get cancer. They do, however.

    And people who receive chemo would not get better, which they do. Granted, some do not, but a very large portion of cancers are successfully.

            Mark said:

    Organically grown vegitables and fruit combines with detox and proper living and eating and herbal meds.

    Okay, I would like you to explain something…

    we have two food plant seeds, lets say, carrots, perhaps. Now I plant these carrots in two different pots. Both pots contain soil that is deficient in vital plant nutrients.

    In pot number 1 I apply some synthetic fertilizer. This fertilizer contains urea, a few urea compounds, a small amount of ammonia and a small amount of salts, including sodium chloride, potassium chloride and a small amount of phosphates. The urea and ammonia in this fertilizer came from nitrogen extracted from the air.

    In pot number 2 I urinate. Urine containing basically the same plant nutrients, such as urea, ammonia, potassium. The difference is these chemicals were extracted from my blood by my kidneys.

    Pot number 2 meets the criteria for being organic. Pot number 1 does not.

    Why will pot 2 cure cancer and pot 1 cause it?


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  17. 17
    outcast Says:

            Mark said:

    Pot is natural.

    So it cancer.

    It wont cure cancer because no one substance will cure cancer. Healing cancer is about restoring ballance. that means many different plants and nutrients.

    Organically grown vegitables and fruit combines with detox and proper living and eating and herbal meds.

    None of them can do it alone, but together cancer can be healed.

    Yeah, that worked out real well for Jessica Asincough’s mom. Not.


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  18. 18
    Martina Sidney Says:

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