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Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?

An expert separates the truth from hype and tells us if cannabis can really treat cancer

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Cannabis: a simple flowering plant that has been at the center of a hotly debated legalization battle in America and the world over. There have always been people touting the medicinal benefits of cannabis; however this was recently taken to a whole new level with headlines screaming: “Science Finally Explains How Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells And It’s Pretty Amazing”!

An expert separates the truth from hype and tells us if cannabis can really treat cancer
These stories were picked up and shared widely on social media

So, where did this story originate and is there really a link between cannabis and cancer treatment?

On its website, the National Cancer Institute (a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, US government) did state that cannabinoids (the active compound in cannabis) may kill cancer cells, but they also point out that this is only the case in laboratory and animal studies.

The summary on the website further states that: “at present, there is insufficient evidence to recommend inhaling cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or cancer treatment related side-effects”.

Here lies the challenge: cancer cells in the laboratory can be killed or their growth stopped by a wide range of compounds, however killing cancer cells in the human body is very challenging as they acquire different mutations that makes them resistant to therapy.

In a nutshell: cannabinoids may kill cancer cells in the laboratory setting, but there is no evidence currently that it actually prevents or is useful in treating cancer in humans.

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Here is What We Do Know

An expert separates the truth from hype and tells us if cannabis can really treat cancer
The term medicinal marijuana refers to using the whole unprocessed plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom. Currently the drug is not recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a medicine. (Photo: iStock)

Cannabinoids can be useful in treating symptoms of cancer.

Dronabinol, a synthetically manufactured cannabinoid is approved in the US for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy. It was also found to be effective in improving appetite in patients with AIDS.

So, cannabinoids may help in overcoming some of the side effects of cancer therapy, but to call it a treatment for cancer is (literally) taking a “high” leap of faith.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Cancer   cannabis   marijuana 

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