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Cannabis Use with Cancer

It is common knowledge that cannabis is helpful in controlling the extreme nausea and vomiting that often accompanies cancer chemotherapy. Cannabis is also helpful for cachexia (extreme weight loss) and pain that is often associated with cancer.

The real excitement comes with the growing evidence that cannabis may actually treat cancer by acting as a perfect chemotherapy medication which kills the cancer cells but not the healthy ones. Back in 1974, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond inadvertently found the THC slowed the growth of cancer cells in mice with cancer of the lung, breast and a virus-induced leukemia. Their funding ended since the original goal was to determine its harmful effects to the immune system. In 2000 Guzman and his research team in Madrid, Spain demonstrated that injected THC could shrink or destroy brain cell tumors (Glioma) in rats. The 1974 studies were never published and in recent years there has been little coverage in the U.S. about Guzman’s work.

Suggested Reading

Guzman M, Duarte MJ, Blazquez C, Ravina J, Rosa MC, Galve-Roperh I et al. (2006). A pilot clinical study of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. British Journal of Cancer, 95(2):197-203.

Guzman M. (2006). Cannabinoids: potential antitumoral agents? Cannabinoids, 1(2):15-17.

Hashibe M, Morgenstern H, Cui Y, Tashkin DP, Zhang, Z-F, Cozen W, Mack TM & Greenland S. (2006). Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aerodigestive tract cancers: results of a population-based case-control Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev., 15(10):1829-34.

Kogan, N. (2005). Cannabinoids and cancer. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 5(10): 941-52.

Additional References

Allister et al. (2005). Cannabinoids selectively inhibit proliferation and induce death of cultured human glioblastoma multiforme cells. Journal of Neurooncology. 74: 31-40.

Cafferal et al (2006). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits cell cycle progression in human breast cancer cells through Cdc2 regulation. Cancer Research. 66: 6615-6621.

Calatozzolo et al (2007). Expression of cannabinoid receptors and neurotrophins in human gliomas. Neurological Sciences. 28: 304-310.

Carracedo et al (2006). Cannabinoids induce apoptosis of pancreatic tumor cells via endoplasmic reticulum stress-related genes. Cancer Research. 66: 6748-6755.

Casanova et al (2003). Inhibition of skin tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo by activation of cannabinoid receptors. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 111: 43-50.

DiMarzo et al (2006). Anti-tumor activity of plant cannabinoids with emphasis on the effect of Cannabidiol on human breast carcinoma. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Fast Forward

Galanti et al (2007). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits cell cycle progression by downregulation of E2F1 in human glioblastoma multforme cells. Acta Oncologica, 12: 1-9.

Gustafsson et al (2006). Cannabinoid receptor-mediated apoptosis induced by R(+)-methanandamide and Win55,212 is associated withceramide accumulation and p38 activation in mantle cell lymphoma. Molecular Pharmacology

Guzman, M. (2003). Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents. Nature Reviews Cancer. 3: 745-755.

Guzman, M. et al (2004). Cannabinoids inhibit the vascular endothelial growth factor pathways in gliomas. Cancer Research, 64: 5617-5623.

Jia et al (2006). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-induced apoptosis in jurkat leukemic T cells regulated by translocation of Bad to mitochondria. Molecular Cancer Research, 4: 549-562.

Massi P et al (2004). Antitumor effects of Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic cannabinoid, on human glioma cell lines. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Fast Forward, 308: 838-845.

McAllister SD et al (2007). Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics., 6: 2921-2927.

McKallip RJ et al. (2006). Cannabidiol-induced apoptosis in human leukemia cells: A novel role of Cannabidiol in the regulation of p22phox and Nox4 expression. Molecular Pharmacology, 70:897-908.

Michalski et al (2007). Cannabinoids in pancreatic cancer:correlation with survival and pain. International Journal of Cancer

Mimeault et al (2003). Anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of anandamide in human prostate cancer cell lines. Prostate. 56: 1-12.

Parolaro & Massi (2008). Cannabinoids as a potential new drug therapy for the treatment of gliomas. Expert Reviews of Neurotherapeutics. 8: 37-49.

Pastos et al (2005). The endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide, induces cell death in colorectal carcinoma cells: a possible role for cyclooxygenase-2. Gut. 54: 1731-1750.

Powles et al (2005). Cannabis-induced cytotoxicity in leukemic cell lines. Blood. 105: 1214-1221.

Preet et al (2008). Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits epithelial growth factor-induced lung cancer cell migration in vitro as well as its growth and metastasis in vivo. Oncogene. 10: 339-346.

Ramer & Hinz (2008). Inhibition of cancer cell invasion by cannabinoids via increased cell expression of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 100: 59-69.

Sarfaraz et al. (2005). Cannabinoid receptors as a novel target for the treatment of prostate cancer. Cancer Research. 65:1635-1641.

Leelawat, S., Leelawat, K., Narong, S. & Matangkasombut, O. (2009 Nov. 16 – Epub ahead of print) The dual effects of delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol on cholangiocarcinoma cells: anti-invasion activity at low concentration and apoptosis induction at high concentration. Cannabis Investig.


Preet, A., Ganju, R.K. & Groopman, J.E. (2008). Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits epithelial growth factor-induced lung cancer cell migration in vitro as well as its growth and metastasis in vivo. Oncogene. 27(3):339-46. Epub 2007 Jul 9.


Qamri, Z., Preet, A, Nasser, M.W., Bass, C.E., Leone, G., Barsky, S.H. & Ganju, R.K. (2009). Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists inhibit tumor growth and metastasis of breast cancer. Molecular Cancer Ther. 8(11):3117-29. Epub 2009 Nov 3.


Ramer, R., Merkord, J., Rohde, H. & Hinz, B. (2009 Nov 13 – Epub ahead of print). Cannabidiol inhibits cancer cell invasion via upregulation of tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases-1. Biochemical Pharmacology.


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