The researchers set out to test the efficacy of existing chemotherapy treatments alongside cannabinoids, and to determine whether the order of the drugs had any impact on potency. Different types of cannabinoids, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), were then paired up and used in combination the chemotherapy drugs vincristine and cytarabine. Based on their results, the researchers determined that using cannabinoids after chemotherapy improved the chances of cancer apoptosis, or programmed cell death. The outcome was less favorable when the order was reversed and the cannabinoids were given prior to chemotherapy.
“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,” lead author Dr. Wai Liu said of the study. “Studies such as ours serve to establish the best ways that they should be used to maximise a therapeutic effect.”
The researchers noted that more tests would be needed before this practice can be implemented on a larger scale. Liu also pointed out that the team didn't use the entire plant during their study; instead, he and his team utilized cannabis extracts. “These extracts are highly concentrated and purified, so smoking marijuana will not have a similar effect,” Liu told the DailyMail.co.uk.
Regardless, the results of the study are very promising. Chemotherapy has numerous severe side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, and an increased risk of infections. If combined with cannabinoids, then chemotherapy dosages could be greatly diminished.
Moreover, the news could not have been more timely. Ireland is poised to legalize the use of cannabis for treating certain medical conditions such as severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis in order to offset the damaging effects of chemotherapy. Simon Harris, the Irish Health Minister, has expressed his support for medical cannabis, especially in cases “where patients have not responded to other treatments and there is some evidence that cannabis may be effective.”
Meanwhile, Australian actress Olivia Newton-John revealed that she will be using cannabis oil and “other natural remedies” after her second breast cancer diagnosis. Newton-John's daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, stated that her mother opted to use cannabis oil in addition to modern medicine. “My mom and best friend is going to be fine. She will be using medicine that I often talk about. CBD oil! (Cannabis has scientifically proven properties to inhibit cancer cell growth) and other natural healing remedies plus modern medicine to beat this,” said Lattanzi. (Related: Cannabis oil (CBD) CURES 12-year-old girl of life-threatening seizure)
Though controversy still surrounds cannabis, its healing effects are gaining more attention, and its medical potential is gaining traction. What Liu and his colleagues have unearthed has opened the door to for cannabis, and like Liu said: “Cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology.”
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