The Case for Cannabis Oil and Leukemia

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The Case for Cannabis Oil and Leukemia


In February of 2009, doctors told the family of a 14 year-old girl with a particularly aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells, that they had failed at treating her cancer and there was nothing more they could do.

She had already undergone a bone marrow transplant, aggressive chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Out of options, her parents decided to give cannabis oil a try after reading research about cannabinoids as potential anti-cancer agents.

Over the next 78 days, the patient’s blast cell count[1] went from 374,000 near the start of treatment with cannabis oil to less than 2000 by the last day. With no further intervention for the disease, it appeared that the cannabis oil was working. Moreover, spontaneous remission was ruled out as a possibility as the effectiveness of the treatment was clearly dose-dependent.

Sadly, despite the apparent success of cannabis extract in getting rid of the leukemia, the patient died due to chemotherapy-induced complications.

What makes this account stand out from the many other anecdotes of individuals who successfully treated their cancers with cannabis oil is that it was documented in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Case Reports in Oncology, in 2013.

In their discussion about the significance of this case study, the authors note that:

…where our most advanced chemotherapeutic agents had failed to control the blast counts and had devastating side effects that ultimately resulted in the death of the patient, the cannabinoid therapy had no toxic side effects and only psychosomatic properties, with an increase in the patient’s vitality.

Based on a demonstration of complete disease control and a dose response curve, the authors rally behind greater research and development to advance cannabinoid therapy for cancer.

They also note “many cannabinoids within the resinous extract have demonstrated targeted, antiproliferative, proapoptotic[2] and antiangiogenic[3] properties.”

Foremost among these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most prevalent cannabinoid, famously known for its psychoactive properties. Its anti-cancer effect is well-established in cannabis research, but its unwanted side effects motivate researchers to examine less known, non-psychoactive cannabinoids that might also act just as powerfully as THC as anti-cancer agents.

Six Different Cannabinoids Found to Kill Leukemia Cells

In response to this research need, scientists from the UK published a study in the journal Anticancer Research in 2013, showing the anti-cancer effects of six different non-psychoactive cannabinoids: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabigevarin (CBGV), and cannabigevaric acid (CBGVA). These cannabinoids represent the most common ones found in cannabis apart from THC.

Coincidentally, these cannabinoids were tested on leukemia cells, either alone or in combination with each other. A press release about the research stated:

Of six cannabinoids studied, each demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as those seen in THC. Importantly, they had an increased effect on cancer cells when combined with each other.  

Lead researcher, Dr. Wai Liu, said of his team’s results to the Huffington Post:

It just so happens that a number of cannabinoids can target these very same mechanisms that make cancer what it is, and so any cancer that exhibits these faults should respond well to cannabinoids.

Dr. Liu sees the potential of cannabinoids to result in much more cost-effective anti-cancer drugs in the future.  He also believes that in combining cannabinoids with existing cancer treatments, scientists could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer.

As a matter of fact, he and his research team would go on to publish groundbreaking work demonstrating that the most dramatic reductions in cancer combines the cannabinoids, THC and CBD, with conventional treatment – in this case, radiation therapy on mice with glioma.

To read more about this research and other research into the anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids as well as an explanation for how cannabinoids work on cancer cells, check out our entire Cannabis and Cancer series.

You may also be interested in learning about the success that cannabis oil has had on killing brain cancer cells and in reading how well it has worked for our patient-members who battled cancer. Another popular piece on our site regarding children and medical cannabis is the discussion of ACDC, an alternative to Charlotte’s Web grown right here in northern California.

Please contact us to learn more about our research-based, lab-tested THC and CBD rich cannabis oils. We can discuss customization with you and your physician to meet your specific needs.

[1] Blast cells refer to immature myeloid cells that become red and white blood cells and platelets. In the case of leukemia, there is an overproduction of abnormal blast cells that take over the bone marrow, unable to develop into mature cells and preventing production of other types of blood cells.

[2] inducing cancer cell death.

[3] inhibiting the development of new blood vessels that spread cancer.


Constance Finley