Researchers from China’s Guangzhou Medical University have been studying cannabinoids, and their effects on HCC ( Hepatocellular Carcinoma). HCC is the largest cause of cancer deaths worldwide, affecting the liver.
According to Cancer.gov, incidents of the cancer vary from 2.1 per 100,000 in North America to 80 per 100,000 in China, and it is the fourth most common cancer in the world. They estimate that in 2015, 35,660 new cases will be diagnosed, and 24,550 deaths will be caused by HCC in the United States alone. The current 5-year overall survival rate for patients with liver cancer of any stage is about 15%.
What Do Cannabinoids Do To Cancer?
The researchers targeted affected cells with synthetic cannabinoids, and noticed that they inhibited cell cycle regulation. What this means is that in normal cells, there is a system to regulate the cycle of the cells, controlled by proteins. When this process goes out of whack, the cells replicate indefinitely, a process we call cancer, and the cells eventually grow into the masses we call tumors.
Cannabinoids step in to re-regulate this process, by inhibiting the out of control cells, without affecting normal ones. In effect, cannabinoids slow, stop, or even shrink cancer. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others”. A study recently published in Cell Reports states that the CB1 receptors in the human body, specifically those in the liver, are more prevalent in cancerous cells compared to normal ones. It suggests that this indicates that cannabinoids are uniquely positioned to have a dramatic effect on the cancer, by blocking these receptors.
What Does This Mean For HCC?
The results of the researchers at Guangzhou Medical University are promising. HCC is difficult to treat, because it usually isn’t found until later stages, and treatment options are limited, since it often accompanied by cirrhosis, and both can be caused by the same risk factors. Chronic alcohol use, hepatitis B or C, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes are all risk factors.
What Does This Mean For Cannabis?
Cannabis has been shown to be effective for many ailments, and several cancers, including leukemia, breast cancer, glioma, and bladder cancer. The National Cancer Institute acknowledged that cannabis kills cancer, and the American Cancer Society wants it to be rescheduled to increase the ability to do more research on its effects.
There are a few unanswered questions. Would plant sourced cannabinoids work as well as synthetics for HCC? When will we get to see human trials? How many other uses for this natural plant must there be before the government gives in to the pressure of the truth, and stops labeling it as the “Devil’s Lettuce”? The cost of legalization is not just in tax dollars, or unjust incarcerations.
Keeping this valuable medicine withheld from needing patients amounts to negligent homicide. How many more people does our government get to murder before the insanity stops?