Leukemia, which is prevalent in both children and adults, is a bone marrow cancer that results in an abnormal production of white blood cells. These abnormal cells accumulate and ultimately outnumber healthier cells within one’s bone marrow. Leukemia negatively affects the immune system and can rapidly progress, leading most physicians to quickly respond to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. But a new study reveals that cannabinoids can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy can successfully kill off the abundance of leukemia cells.
Chemotherapy and THC as a cancer-fighting duo
It’s no secret that certain cannabinoids have been linked to cancer cell death, inhibited tumor growth and even complete tumor eradication in many cases (especially liver cancer cases).
A new study conducted at St. George’s University of London in the UK sought to test the combination of chemotherapy drugs and groups of cannabinoids to find the most effective pairings in regards to success rates. According to Medicalnewstoday.com,
They found that cannabidiol and THC, when used alone, killed leukemia cells. However, when used in conjunction, their potency was significantly improved; the whole is more than the sum of the parts.
In the end, the study showed that the synergistic qualities of the two therapies (THC and chemo) “improved overall outcomes against the leukemia cells,” and provided greater cancer cell reduction.
Cancer Research UK, an independent charity based organization who funds “scientists, doctors, and nurses to help beat cancer sooner,” among other duties, is still hesitant to celebrate the findings. Their senior science information manager, Anna Perman stated in response to the results that,
This research in cells doesn’t provide evidence that cannabinoids are safe or effective for patients.
Their tentative stance might be influenced by cannabis’ illegal standing in the UK, but they remain somewhat open to further clinical trials to support the researchers’ claims.
But as it stands, we still need proper trials to know if they are effective, for what types of cancer, and at what dose.
Hopes for the future
Still, Dr. Wai Liu, the lead researcher for the study hopes that the results will give people within the medical field a greater understanding of the cannabinoid’s cancer-fighting abilities, as well as its propensity to ease the severe side effects of chemotherapy treatment (nausea, decreased appetite, pain).
We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of this treatment […] Cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology.
Very exciting indeed. With the discovery that using cannabinoids after chemotherapy sessions can result in greater apoptosis, or cancer cell death, researchers are becoming more and more eager to conduct thorough, scientific studies that will get them beyond anecdotal research and onto uncovering the very real medical benefits of the plant.
As for leukemia treatment, now it’s simply a matter of figuring out the most optimal combinations for greater effectiveness.
Studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they [cannabinoids] should be used to maximize a therapeutic effect. – Dr. Liu.