“Cannabis cures cancer” is a false and dangerous statement — for now.
It’s false because although some research suggests compounds in cannabis may trigger cell death in some human tumors, a definitive link is far from clinically proven. And it is dangerous, because credulous people have been taken by false promises that cannabis can cure cancer — the leading example of weed-related fake news, mind you— and suffer ill health and criminal justice consequences as a result.
This is the disclaimer and the context necessary to frame a blog post about this recent study, in which researchers have found evidence suggesting that CBD, or cannabidiol, might in fact help certain cancer drugs in their mission to kill certain cancers. If true — a very large if, but a strong possibility! — this is very huge, and one more step towards removing the “for now” qualifier above.
Aware of the anti-inflammatory and other potential healing benefits of CBD, one of the cannabinoids present in cannabis (and now present in just about everything, from cosmetics to turmeric lattes to brownies, because of this awareness) oncology researchers at the Korea University College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea decided to pair CBD with a common cancer treatment.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, with 1.4 million new cases diagnoses worldwide every year. The researchers exposed human colorectal cancer cells isolated in a lab (that is, in a dish and not a human) to a treatment called TRAIL, or TNF-Related Apostosis Inducing Ligand — a protein that has become increasingly popular in oncology circles for its apparent ability to trigger apostosis (death) in certain cancer cells — as well as CBD.
The CBD “significantly increased apoptosis” compared to TRAIL by itself, according to the researchers, whose findings were published May 9 in the journal Cancers.
“Our studies demonstrate that cannabidiol enhances TRAIL-induced apoptosis… and suggests that cannabidiol is a novel agent for increasing sensitivity to TRAIL,” wrote the researchers, adding that “we conclude that the combination of cannabidiol and TRAIL is a significant potential therapy” for sufferers of colorectal cancer.
This is no small breakthrough, the researchers noted.
“To the best of our knowledge,” they wrote, “this is the first report that cannabidiol induces significant TRAIL-induced apoptosis of colorectal cancer cells,” noting that earlier reports suggested that a different protein response was responsible for cancer-cell death.
That sounds great, but it’s a wee more complicated. Specifically, CBD seemed to aid the ability of a particular TRAIL receptor, called DR5 — for “death receptor 5” — to bind to cancer cells and kill them dead.
Colorectal cancers aren’t the only cancers that CBD puts on the run. “Cannabidiol has shown the ability to inhibit proliferation, angiogenesis, and metastasis in various cancers, including colorectal, breast, brain, prostate, and lung cancer,” the researchers noted. So should you try CBD if you have cancer? Sure, why not — but, as this study made abundantly clear, in no way is cannabis a replacement for conventional cancer therapies. Rather, it is a supplement.
For a long time, cannabis’s main aid in cancer cases, in addition to pain relief, was appetite stimulation. Treatments like chemotherapy wreck your appetite, and it is very difficult for a malnourished body to healthy. This study is yet another signal, and a very strong one, that cannabis has more power than that, and it likely won’t be the last.
TELL US, do you know anyone who’s used cannabis while fighting cancer?