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The cancer-killing powers of cannabis have been making headlines over the past couple of years. While breast and brain cancers tend to get the limelight, there is some emerging data suggesting that compounds in the plant may be helpful in gastric cancer as well. But, what evidence suggests that the herb actually works? Further, how are people using cannabis to combat their cancers? Here’s how patients treat stomach cancer with cannabis.
There are four primary ways that cannabis kills cancer cells. While complete clinical trials in humans are sorely needed, cannabis has successfully terminated tumor cells in both laboratory and animal models. Here’s a simple summary of how cannabis seems to stop cancer in its tracks.
One reason why tumor cells become malignant is because they continue to grow and divide. Eventually, that keeps proliferating to the point that they disrupt important bodily functions. In laboratory models, cannabinoids like THC and CBD halt this proliferation.
A 2008 review found that high doses of cannabinoids slowed cancer cell proliferation, but low doses may have the opposite effect. The authors explain,
“[…] overexpression of cannabinoid receptors may be effective in killing tumors, whereas low or no expression of these receptors could lead to cell proliferation and metastasis because of the suppression of the antitumor immune response.
It is also reported that low doses of cannabinoid administration accelerate proliferation of cancer cells instead of inducing apoptosis and, thereby, contribute to cancer progression.”
High doses of cannabis cause increased activation of cannabinoid receptors. This may explain why large quantities of cannabinoids seem to decrease cancer proliferation. Though, low doses of cannabis may not do you much good.
Stops metastatic tumors
Cannabis also seems to prevent tumor cells from spreading. Cancer becomes metastatic when cells begin to break off, travel through the bloodstream or lymph system and take up residence in another area. Metastatic cancers are particularly difficult to treat and can have deadly repercussions.
A 2014 review found that both CBD and THC has anti-metastatic properties in laboratory and animal models. The reviewed studies focused on breast and lung cancer.
Cuts off blood supply
Another way that tumor cells grow is to cut off their blood supply. Cancer cells produce a compound known as Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), which allows them to create new blood vessels. These new blood vessels provide the vital oxygen that the tumor cells needs to survive.
Research from 2004 found that cannabinoid treatment reduces the amount of VEGF in cancer cells. The study treated both mice and two human brain cancer patients. Reduced VEGF means that a tumor’s ability to grow and create its own blood supply is limited. This potentially slows the tumor’s growth.
Induces programmed cell death
Finally, there has been a lot of excitement over the ability of cannabis compounds to cause cancer cells to self-destruct. In a healthy body, cells are triggered to break themselves apart when they become damaged or dysfunctional.
This process is known as programmed cell death. For some reason, cancer cells stop responding to these triggers. So, they continue to grow and proliferate.
Turns out, cannabis triggers programmed cell death in cancer cells. A 2006 study found that THC treatments caused pancreatic tumors in laboratory models to commit cell suicide. Treatments in animal models were also successful. The growth of pancreatic cancer cells slowed in rodents.
Another 2009 study found something similar in human glioma cells cultured outside of the body. THC caused tumor cells to self-digest and die. That’s right, the primary psychoactive in cannabis actually killed the cancer cells.
Even more amazing is that cannabinoid treatments targeted cancer cells, but not healthy cells. The 2008 review mentioned earlier showed that cannabis has a negative effect on cancer cells, but leaves healthy cells alone. They explain,
“Cannabinoids are proving to be unique based on their targeted action on cancer cells and their ability to spare normal cells.”
A stomach cancer study
The above studies and reviews explain the possible mechanisms cannabinoids use to kill tumor cells. Yet, there has also is research on cannabis and stomach (gastric) cancers specifically. A 2013 study by Korean researchers found that a synthetic cannabinoid effectively slowed the growth of tumor cells in rodent models of gastric cancers.
The study used a compound called WIN 55,212-2, which is a synthetic version of THC. Rodents treated with the cannabinoid experienced a 30% reduction in gastric tumor size over 14 days.
The team also found that rodents treated with the cannabinoid had an increased number of apoptotic cells. Apoptotic cells are a sign that the cannabinoid increased programmed cell death in the tumor cells. More cancer cells had committed suicide in the cannabinoid group.
The cancer cells used in the study were from a type of cancer that is resistant to a common chemotherapy drug, Fluorouracil. While drugs may work very differently in humans than they do in rodents, the Korean research is a positive sign that cannabis-based drugs may hold therapeutic potential in treatment-resistant gastric cancers.
How do you treat stomach cancer with cannabis?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question without substantial human trials. There is no guarantee that cannabis treatment will work for anyone, and each patient will respond differently to adding cannabis to their treatment plan.
That being said, desperate patients still want to know how others are using the herb in cancer treatment.
Before making any changes to your treatment plan, always consult your doctor. The information here is not intended as a treatment recommendation or medical advice. Rather, it’s simply a summary of what many cancer patients tend to do with cannabis. Here are the details:
Many patients use medical cannabis oil as a daily supplement. Medical cannabis oil is a highly concentrated extract that is also known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), Black Oil, and Phoenix Tears.
It’s important to note that the quality of the oil is only as good as the quality of the starting product. While the verdict is still out, there’s some evidence that different cancers may respond better to different ratios of cannabinoids.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information about cannabis treatments to give a definite answer on the best type of cannabis to use.
Though, it is generally thought that opting for oil made from cannabis strains that are high in both THC and non-psychoactive CBD is the best option so far. Both THC and CBD have shown anti-cancer effects in laboratory and animal models, so many patients gravitate toward a mix of both cannabinoids.
The video above discusses the uncertainty of using cannabinoids for cancer treatment, as well as some preliminary information about desired cannabinoid ratios.
Dosage and amount
Generally speaking, many patients and activists believe that it takes 60 grams/ml of cannabis oil to have an effect on cancer. These 60 grams are typically consumed in 90-day cycles. When patients first begin cannabis treatment, they tend to start slow and gradually work up to a gram of oil a day within a 90-day period.
Famous activist and former cancer patient Rick Simpson recommends that that patients take cannabis oil 3 times a day. Typically, patients start with small doses and gradually work up to the full amount.
For many, the starting point is a drop of cannabis oil the size of half a grain of rice three times daily. This dose is often doubled every 4 days.
An anecdotal example
Some patients choose to repeat this cycle throughout their treatment. As an anecdotal example, former brain cancer patient Kelly Hauf, for example, struggled to work up to the correct dose during her first 90 days. So, she began another 90-day cycle. Toward the end of her treatment, she increased the dose to two grams per day.
Though, at high doses, she experienced trouble with memory and cognition. She was using oil made from a 70% THC hybrid strain that was low in CBD.
Hauf also maintained a healthy diet and got plenty of light physical exercise during her treatment. Yet, she is quick to explain,
“I am a believer that healing is a very individual experience. What works for one may not work for another. The reason being that we are all on our own paths and our journey and healing takes place on many levels as does our ailments.
For this reason I am a uncomfortable with implying that this will work for everyone. We are all different and respond differently to treatments. I only want my viewpoint to reflect that this worked for me.” – Hauf
Other patients have used cannabis oil continuously or have developed their own strategies based on what has worked for them personally. You can read more about Hauf’s journey on her blog.
Again, we are not doctors and this information has not been backed or proven by medical trials. Rather, it is anecdotal evidence from patients who have experimented with cannabis for their cancer. Thus far, there is no mainstream medical support that these doses work for everyone or even at all.
Always be aware that there are no guarantees with cannabis.
Easing symptoms with cannabis
Regardless of whether or not cannabis can actually reduce or eliminate tumors, there are a few ways that the herb can help relieve symptoms of stomach cancer. Cannabis pharmaceuticals have already been approved for the treatment of cancer-related nausea and vomiting.
Dronabinol and Nabilone are two cannabinoid pharmaceuticals currently available for cancer patients when other nausea medications have not worked.
One trial of 116 patients using THC from cannabis found that the cannabinoid effectively reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. THC worked far better than placebo, though the patient population was not very satisfied with the cannabinoid’s psychoactive effects. The majority of the patient population were elderly adults.
Additional research has shown positive benefits of cannabis in treating cancer-related pain. Even the American Cancer Society cites studies which show that vaporized cannabis may effectively reduce pain associated with cancer and chemotherapy.
All in all, cannabis shows tremendous potential as a cancer-fighter in both laboratory and animal models. Yet, until we see human trials using accepted scientific methods, we cannot say for sure whether cannabis is an effective tumor-killer in most patients.
However, there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence out there from people who have chosen to incorporate cannabis into their treatment plans.
The willingness of these patients to come forward with their stories is how we know that many find some sort of success with the 60 gram/ 90-day method. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to medical cannabis. It’s up to the patient to make a very difficult decision about how they want to address their unique medical issues.