Pot and the “Big C”

Cannabis and cancer?

Mar 12, 2013 at 12:00 am

Cannabis and cancer? That concept is becoming more and more common these days, and it’s not because smoking the plant causes cancer as some people erroneously claim.

In fact, the clinical evidence that we do have suggests that cannabis could be very helpful in fighting many forms of cancer. In the Petri dish, and in rats and mice, researchers have found that THC and CBD, two active compounds (cannabinoids) in the plant, cause cancer cells to die while leaving healthy cells alone. This is in contrast to conventional chemotherapy wherein all the cells, cancerous and healthy, are killed; hopefully, the cancer dies before you do.

“The scientific studies are consistent in showing that there are constituents in cannabis that have anti-cancer activities,” says NORML deputy director Paul Armentano, who has given court testimony, written and lectured on medical marijuana. “We see that cannabinoids can act as selective anticancer agents in that they target malignant cancer cells and they cause these cells to turn on themselves and trigger cell suicide. They do not trigger suicide in healthy cells.”

Armentano does not claim that cannabis cures cancer. His comments are as cautious as scientists who see potential that cannabis might be used successfully in combination with currently conventional therapies to treat cancer. All of them conclude that more research needs to be done.

A group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin concurred with that after reviewing literature on medical uses for marijuana. Their findings were published in 2007 under the title “Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment: Progress and Promise” in the journal Cancer Research (http://goo.gl/zTpDB). They concluded:

“In view of the fair safety profile of most cannabinoids together with their antiproliferative action on tumor cells, clinical trials are required to determine whether cannabinoids could be used for the inhibition of tumor growth in a clinical setting. If this could be established, then one can hope that nontoxic, nonhabit forming cannabinoids could be developed as novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer.”

There are good indicators for the use of cannabis in brain, breast, lung, skin, prostate, pancreatic lymphoma and other cancers in laboratory settings. Most prudent scientific articles call for more study. The next logical step would be human trials. If those were allowed and successful, then somewhere down the line the FDA would approve therapies with specific dosages and delivery methods.

That’s a possibility in the future, but people are dying out here right now and they don’t have several years for this to play out. They seek hope now. If people can find some way to get the concentration of THC and CBD necessary to affect their cancer, they’re willing to take the chance and use it along with their conventional therapy; others are dropping conventional therapy altogether in favor of cannabis preparations.

Diane Buck, a 57-year-old who lives in the Ypsilanti area, uses a concentrated marijuana oil to treat her liver and bile duct cancer alongside conventional chemotherapy. Buck says when she was diagnosed in 2012, doctors told her they wouldn’t be able to do much for her. The tumor encompassed one-third of her liver and, according to Buck, “They said it was inoperable.” Even so, Buck was able to get into a chemotherapy trial study at the University of Michigan Hospital Cancer Center.

Buck had previously suffered from migraine headaches and had been prescribed Marinol, a synthetic THC medication, to deal with the pain and nausea. After researching Marinol, Buck moved on to marijuana for treatment as a medical marijuana patient.

“When I found out about the cancer I started on that Simpson oil (as a parallel treatment with the chemo),” says Buck. “From a medical point of view all they could do was make me comfortable. Without it I wouldn’t be here now. A recent CT scan shows the tumor is shrinking. They said they never had a patient with this type of tumor shrink. They said they couldn’t explain that. I could, but I couldn’t tell them. I told them I have a secret weapon. I have two; it’s God and something else. They just looked at me. I said, ‘I have angels’ and left it at that.”

Buck is referring to Rick Simpson’s Hemp Oil, known by some other names including Milagro (miracle) Oil. Simpson oil is a highly concentrated preparation that takes a pound of marijuana to make about 2 ounces of oil. Simpson explains how to make it in a two-minute-48 second video on YouTube. This oil is so concentrated with cannabinoids that most folks have to take a diluted dose over a period of a couple of weeks before they can tolerate the full 1 gram per day recommended dose.

I am not endorsing this treatment for anyone. However, this is one way that medical marijuana patients are treating themselves for cancer

At the end of the video Simpson claims, “ingesting this oil over a two to three month period is enough to cure most serious cancers.” That’s a pretty big claim, but there are numerous testimonies of a similar nature to be found on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet.

One of those is Dennis Hill, a biochemist who has worked in cancer research. Prostate cancer runs in his family and he has seen several family members suffer from the disease. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer he chose to go a different route and treated himself with cannabis oil. He claims he cured his cancer through this with no other therapy. A Feb. 28 note on this website (http://goo.gl/wcec7) reads: “My progress is good. Asked my doctor the meaning of my last three PSAs [prostate specific antigen levels]. He said: ‘The PSA has not risen over 2.4 in nine months, we can presume the cancer is in remission.’ Music to my ears. Cannabinoid extract wins again. Huzzah!”

Michael McShane, 53, lives in Ferndale and says he cured his skin cancer with Simpson oil. McShane is a Navy veteran who served from 1978 to 1982 and is an engineer who has worked in the automotive industry. He was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, and in 1993 was diagnosed with squamos cell carcinoma, the first of five cancers he’s had over the years. Among other things McShane has endured chemotherapy, radiation therapy and 15 operations. “Seven of which were cosmetic to fix the damage done by the first eight cuttings,” he says. His teeth are falling out from all the radiation he has been given.

When his cancer returned a couple of years ago he didn’t want to go through the ordeal again and turned to Simpson oil. “I’ve had my fair share of modern medicine at this time,” says McShane. “I started doing oil and after about 10 days I could see that it was doing something (to the tumors). The edges started breaking up and stuff.”

McShane applied the oil directly to the lesions on his skin. There is nothing visibly wrong with his skin at this time. He says, “I really got the success out of the oil, wiping away the cancer spots.”

Over the past several months McShane has stopped taking conventional medication for cancer and HIV. “The doctors told me I was going to die,” says McShane. “I’m not dead. I don’t feel bad. I look good. It’s a night and day difference. I’m just not paying attention to those guys.”

Like some other medical marijuana activists, McShane has taken to advising others in how to make and use the oil. A number of them are women with breast cancer, some of whom use the oil in concert with conventional therapies. In laboratories, cannabinoids have shown promise in at least keeping breast cancer from spreading to other areas.

This column is not advocating the use of cannabis rather than conventional therapy to treat cancer. Its intention is to describe how some people are choosing to use preparations of the plant to treat themselves. In the next column I will discuss some other preparations that people are using topically to treat various conditions.


Larry Gabriel is a musician, writer and former MT editor. Contact him at [email protected].