Clinical trials (all as adjuvant therapy): ClinicalTrials.gov
Singer/actress Olivia Newton-John, 70, was recently seen on “60 Minutes Australia,” where she updated viewers on how she is doing with her stage 4 breast cancer.
Is there a role for marijuana in the management of cancer patients?
— The singer and actress updates fans on her battle, but can marijuana help?
The Grease star was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, after finding a small, painful lump. She underwent a partial mastectomy and breast reconstruction, followed by chemotherapy. She also used complementary treatments, such as herbal supplements, acupuncture, meditation, and visualization.
In 2013, she was again diagnosed with breast cancer, this time after discovering a lump in her shoulder. She had kept this relapse quiet until recently.
Newton-John refuses to focus on how much time she could have left, feeling that concentrating on a specific time could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. “So, for me, psychologically, it’s better not to have any idea of what they expect or what the last person that has what you have lived, so I don’t, I don’t tune in.”
Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is a difficult type of cancer to treat because it is negative for progesterone, estrogen, and HER-2 receptors. Because TNBC is negative for these three receptors, it does not respond to normal hormonal therapies. The purpose of my experiment is to see if different cannabinoids, compounds from the cannabis plants, could be used as alternative treatment options. These experiments employed three different cannabinoids: ajulemic acid, cannabidiol, and hemp oil. Cell viability was measured after 72 hours of treatment using a MTT assay. The results showed that the three cannabinoids could be used to effectively destroy the TNBC cells. We used this data to calculate the median lethal dose (LD-50), the concentration of the cannabinoid that can be given to destroy half of the cells. Our data suggest, cannabinoids could potentially be used as an alternative treatment for TNBC. However, much more testing would need to be done before it could be confirmed as a viable treatment option.
According to Cancer Research UK: ‘Many hundreds of scientific papers looking at cannabinoids and cancer have been published, but these studies simply haven’t found enough robust scientific evidence to prove that these can safely and effectively treat cancer.’
A very small number of people may get medical cannabis on prescription, for example if they have a severe form of epilepsy, or vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy. However, this likely to be the case only if other treatments have been tried first.
Can cannabinoids be used to treat cancer?
In order to properly assess the effects of cannabinoids on cancer, large clinical trials are necessary.
The chemicals used in these studies are also very different to the cannabis oils and products available to buy.
The treatment you received will have been given to reduce the risk of the breast cancer coming back at its original site or elsewhere in the body.