It’s important to remember that it’s illegal to grow or sell cannabis in the UK. It’s also illegal to have any cannabis-based products, unless a doctor has prescribed them for medicinal use. CBD oil is legal, but only if it contains extremely low levels of THC (less than 0.2%). However, there’s little evidence to suggest CBD oil benefits cancer patients and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Did you see Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive on Channel 4? It’s a powerful documentary that follows the TV presenter and journalist currently living with advanced prostate cancer as he goes through chemotherapy, tries diets and complementary therapies, and speaks to others with the disease, including Stephen Fry.
But these studies have only looked at prostate cancer cells grown in laboratories or in mice. There’s a long way to go in understanding whether there might be similar effects in patients. Cells can behave very differently in humans, so we need clinical trials in humans to see if cannabinoids could be used to treat prostate cancer. We also don’t yet understand the mechanism by which the cannabinoids prevent prostate cancer cells from growing or dividing either.
Q. Can cannabis help cure prostate cancer?
Why? Well, firstly because there’s strong evidence that being overweight increases the risk of aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.
If you’re experiencing side effects from prostate cancer treatment, such as weight gain, bone thinning or hot flushes from hormone therapy, bowel problems or urinary problems, making changes to your lifestyle may also help you manage them.
Also, cannabinoids can have side effects that are unpleasant or even harmful. It’s important to remember that the cannabinoids used in studies are made in a laboratory and are only one of many chemicals that are found in cannabis. Street-bought (recreational) cannabis contains chemicals that can cause you to hallucinate and could harm your mental health.
Staying a healthy weight may also mean your prostate cancer is less likely to spread after surgery or radiotherapy. And if you’re having hormone therapy to treat your prostate cancer, your treatment may be less effective if you’re very overweight.
“Cannabis is a cure,” he told Lemon.
“I’m going to start treating it with cannabis oil, or hemp oil, or pot oil,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon on Saturday, citing Rick Simpson’s “Run From the Cure” video as his inspiration.
Chong was on air to discuss decriminalizing marijuana, which he says is now a personal health issue for him. “It means a lot more to me than just being able to smoke a joint without being arrested,” he said.
The Truth About Prostate Cancer and Cannabis
Experts warn that more data are needed to confirm these findings, and that even if the effects prove true, you’re not likely to get them from smoking a joint or scarfing down a pot-laced brownie. Any real cannabis-based cancer treatment would probably involve isolating and synthesizing the active chemicals in the plant and using them to engineer a drug — pharmaceutical, not recreational — that could attack the abnormal cells directly.
“There are lots of alternative treatments for prostate cancer that have limited scientific and clinical studies,” says Craig Cooper, founder of Prostate.net, a Web site specializing in prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. “Medicinal marijuana seems to have qualities that can aid in the treatment of prostate cancer symptoms, but more studies are needed on the direct treatment of prostate cancer with cannabinoids.”
The longtime hemp enthusiast and self-proclaimed “holistic person” quit smoking altogether for about a year, “for health reasons.” Now he ingests hemp oil, which comes from cannabis but has fewer psychoactive effects, “so I won’t be woozy all day. I’m taking it as a medicine."
That’s not to say that cannabis has no benefits for men with prostate cancer. Some research suggests that the active ingredients in medical marijuana, namely delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, can improve a patient's appetite and sense of taste, relieve symptoms of pain and nausea, and even reduce anxiety. However, there’s also research that links cannabis to increased risk of sexual dysfunction, depression, memory loss, and testicular cancer. Clearly, scientists have more work to do.
Medicinal cannabis must be distinguished from recreational cannabis which is used to achieve a psychotomimetic state of ‘high’. Cannabis strains used for recreational purposes contain a higher THC and lower CBD ratio than cannabis for medicinal use. Usually two cannabis plants are used: cannabis sativa which has a higher THC concentration and cannabis indica which has a higher CBD concentrate. The flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The terpenoids are resins (oil) with a strong odour.
In vitro studies with THC have shown that cannabinoids affect migration, angiogenesis and apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells, but each type of cancer appears to respond differently to the effect of exogenous cannabinoids. Many types of cancer cells have a higher concentration of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Cannabis contains more than 400 chemical components 80 of which contain cannabinoid components and 200 non-cannabinoids components. For medical purposes, cannabinoid substances such as THC (Delta-9-tertrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol) and non-cannabinoid substances such as terpenoids and flavonoids are relevant.
Human beings produce their own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) according to need and are not stored in the body. Like endorphins, the human body produces endocannabinoids in response to activities such as physical exercise (the high of runners might be due to endocannabinoids, not endorphins!).
– Pre-clinical studies (in vitro = cells in laboratory and in vivo = in mouse model) have shown the antiproliferative, anti-metastatic, anti-angiogenic and pro-apoptotic effects of cannabinoids in various malignancies (lung, glioma, thyroid, lymphoma, skin, pancreas, endometrium, breast and prostate). Even if an identified substance in vitro / in vivo appears to have a beneficial effect on a disease, it is important to realise that only one in 5,000-500,000 substances obtain a registration and becomes available to the patient (after 10-16 years of different study phases). Cannabis has never been clinically studied as a treatment for malignancy.