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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52 Responses to “Lets Get Something Straight: Marijuana is Not a Cancer Treatment”

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  1. 51
    Greg Green Says:

    how do you tell these parents that cannabinoids shouldn’t be used on their children ??


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  2. 52
    DV82XL Says:

            Greg Green said:

    must be hard to be so humble when you are the sum total of knowledge in the universe .

    Yes well my intellectual horizons go beyond youtube videos.

            Greg Green said:

    I can’t imagine that our bodies were created as such because there was a plant out there in the wider world that had THC in it …

    No, plants evolved analogs to the neuro chemistries of the animals that were eating them as a defence mechanism. Some plants produce powerful toxins and evolved those for the same reasons.

            Greg Green said:

    Looks like the f’ing government is on the conspiracy too …

            Greg Green said:

    Looks like big pharma is in on the con …

    The standard consperitard fall-back position.

    Given that one could tax this like alcohol and the other could charge an arm and a leg for a refined and proven medical preparation, it’s difficult to see what the logic is at work with these nonsense accusations.

            Greg Green said:

    how do you tell these parents that cannabinoids shouldn’t be used on their children ??

    I’ve never suggested that there may not be some medical use for some of the cannabinoids, but if there is it will have to come via the same scientific route that brought us Crystodigin and Lanoxin, from Common Foxglove and Scopolamine and Atropine from deadly nightshade. Both precursors were used in herbal medicine, both had serious side effects, and only yielded useful drugs after research and refinement. If you want to argue that more research is needed into the pharmacology of cannabinoids, you will get no argument from me, if you are suggesting that they should be used in the same fashion as herbal medicine based on anecdotal evidence off the web, you are an idiot.

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