Overview of Research on Cannabis for Breast Cancer

Overview of Research on Cannabis for Breast Cancer

We hear the wonders of cannabis medication for various diseases. But not many know that marijuana use is also common among breast cancer patients.

A recent survey of breast cancer patients revealed that four out of 10 patients have tried cannabis as a form of treatment. Anecdotal reports also state that people who use cannabis experience more manageable symptoms of cancer. Marijuana also helps soothe the side effects of chemotherapy and other medications.

Apart from these personal accounts and surveys, is there enough scientific evidence to warrant cannabis’s efficacy in treating breast cancer? Let us look at the pool of research on cannabis for breast cancer below.

What You Have To Know About Breast Cancer and Cannabis

The earliest recorded research on cannabis for breast cancer was during the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the 21st century that we truly understood the nature of breast cancer.

A study by Rahman et al. found that breast cancer is a diverse entity. Various breast cancers exhibit differences in their molecular, genomic (DNA), and phenotypic (physical) expressions. A noteworthy distinction among breast cancers is their varying hormone receptors and cannabinoid receptors.

The researchers added that the presence of certain receptors in the tumor could pave the way to possibly treating breast cancer. Cannabis also has cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) that selectively and differentially affect cancer tumors.

What does this mean?

Depending on the binding of receptors between cannabis and breast cancer, marijuana can cause distinct downstream effects on the cancer cells.

Research-backed Benefits of Cannabis on Breast Cancer

Contrary to popular belief, cannabinoids (CBD) or the compounds found in marijuana are not solely available from the plant. Even the human body can produce CBD-like compounds called endocannabinoids. The CBD obtained from plants is called phytocannabinoids. Finally, there are also synthetic cannabinoids which are man-made CBD derived from the plant.

The collection of research on cannabis for breast cancer indicates that all three play their respective roles in fighting the tumor. We’ll explore the research-backed benefits of cannabis below:

Addresses the Side-effects of Treatment

Breast cancer is a heavy burden to carry. While cancer treatment does its role to stop the spread of the tumor, there are side effects that could be quite unpleasant. A few that breastcancer.org mentions are fatigue, insomnia, nausea, pain, anxiety, depression, and weight problems.

Currently, there are no clinical studies that address the effects of marijuana on breast cancer treatment side effects per se. But there is a large body of studies pointing to cannabis’s beneficial effect on general cancer treatment.

For example, a study by 16 researchers revealed the short-term relief offered by cannabis to palliative cancer patients. This means that they did not focus on the cancer-treating properties of cannabis, only on its pain-relieving attributes.

Boost the Effectiveness of Traditional Treatments

When facing breast cancer, one will need all the help they can get to overcome their condition. Imagine if there were ways to augment breast cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Well, there is and there are studies that could shed light on this query.

A study in 2019 found that CBD-loaded microparticles could complement some chemotherapeutic treatments for breast cancer. The researchers used a CBD solution encapsulated in polymeric microparticles. Results revealed that the experiment improved paclitaxel and doxorubicin-based chemotherapy for breast cancer. Paclitaxel and doxorubicin are synthetic drugs involved in slowing the growth of cancer cells.

The researchers concluded that this could be a step toward optimizing chemotherapeutic agents. Potentially, implementing such a program could increase chemotherapy’s efficacy and treatment potential.

Modulate the Spread of Cancer Cells

Finally, medical marijuana could also potentially join the fight in attacking the breast cancer cells themselves. While there is no conclusive data yet, there are studies that suggest CBD’s potential in affecting cancer cells directly, in three ways:

  1. CBD could induce cell cycle arrest. A study in 2006 suggests that tetrahydrocannabinol could inhibit the cell cycle. More importantly, the receptors could promote apoptosis in breast cancer cells or programmed cell death.
  1. CBD could prevent cell proliferation. Like other cells in the body, cancer cells are capable of cell division. The faster they divide, the quicker cancer spreads throughout the breasts. Several pre-clinical research papers suggest CBD’s ability to prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.
  1. CBD could block angiogenesis. Tumors draw their life force from the body through angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels. CBD can help block angiogenesis, thus limiting the growth potential of breast cancer cells.

Concrete research on cannabis for breast cancer is limited. Clinical studies indicating the benefits of cannabis for treating breast cancer have not yet been performed. Despite that, a pool of preclinical research showed a theoretical foundation to believe that cannabis could have the potential to treat breast cancer. More importantly, attack the cancer cells directly.

As of now, we can trust that cannabis can help ease the symptoms caused by breast cancer and chemotherapy. If you are facing breast cancer and want to try medical marijuana, Medwell Health can help. We offer medical marijuana certifications for breast cancer patients and also consultation with doctors at Medwell Health.

Click here to set up an appointment with Medwell Health and Wellness Centers

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