CANNABIS AND ITS EFFECT ON PROSTATE CANCER
As a physician, I am (self-admittedly) a terrible patient. I rarely go for my annual physical, and when given instructions, I don’t always follow them. I’ve been known to ignore personal advice from trusted friends and family who truly care about me, many of whom are also physicians!
Being in agreement with recent federal bulletins stating that there is little need or benefit in annual PSA checks (a test for prostate cancer,) I had stopped checking my own PSA levels. In retrospect, I’m quite sure that a certain degree of fear played into the reason I ignored them. Not a wise decision.
Over the course of the last year, I had endured a lot of pain but I conveniently attributed it to arthritis and/or old back injuries. Then, last summer I began feeling fatigued, but who doesn’t from time to time? By November, I was so terribly weak that it was difficult to even get out of bed. I was short of breath and light-headed, and began having lower abdominal pain. I actually thought I was having an attack of diverticulitis. By the time I finally got to my GI doc and he saw how ill I was, he shipped me off to the emergency room. I was very concerned, to put it mildly.
As you may have already surmised, after a series of diagnostic tests it was confirmed that I had stage IV prostate cancer, with bone metastases to my hips, spine, pelvis and more. Within an hour or so of being admitted into the hospital, these tests showed that my bones were riddled with tumors. My PSA levels, which are supposed to be at 5 or below, were at 5,900! I had never witnessed this elevated level in any patient in my forty three years practicing medicine. I was extremely anemic and required multiple units of blood. To say that I was very ill is an understatement.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. Statistics show that 11% of men will develop prostate cancer, and in African Americans the incidence is a bit higher. I was, and am, very lucky. I survived the immediate hospitalization and began treatment.
Under the expert care of some of L.A.’s finest cancer specialists, I was immediately placed on a new combination of androgen deprivation, calcium, and vitamin D. My life was in their hands, and although I trusted them implicitly, with my many years as a cannabis specialist I knew that there was one thing missing from my treatment protocol. For this, I took matters into my own hands.
There are many cancers for which cannabis is a very effective anti-tumor medicament. The cannabis protocol that I regularly recommend for solid tumors consists of the CBD, THC, CBD-A and THC-A molecules. This combination of cannabinoid oils have consistently shown anti-tumor effects, and therefore should be included in any protocol targeted at the treatment of cancer. Having learned through the experiences of my patients, it is apparent that moderate doses of cannabis work very well indeed for prostate cancer.
With that in mind, in addition to the two prescribed testosterone blockers, calcium, and vitamin D, I began a steady regimen of the four cannabis oils described above. In a matter of only a few short months, my PSA went down from 5,900 to 0.8, my bony metastases disappeared, and all of my cancer-related pain… virtually gone.
My oncologist has never seen such a dramatic effect, nor has he ever seen a prostate cancer patient‘s PSA numbers reduced to below 1. A coincidence? Perhaps not. I strongly recommend considering these cannabinoids together with hormonal therapy (or any other therapy) for prostate cancer, assuming it cannot be cured by surgery or radiation.
So, what do the cannabinoids do? How do they work? Read on, and once you’ve finished, please continue perusing the articles linked below.
Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is a substantial system in all mammals, responsible for the mind-body connection and other complex physiological actions. Many substances and diseases activate our own cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids) and cannabis is a powerful modulator of the system.
Cannabis largely works on the cancer’s cannabinoid receptors. Tumors that have an abundance of receptors will be more likely to respond to cannabis. (Prostate cancers happen to have very densely populated cannabinoid receptors.) So, when cannabinoids activate the receptors on the tumor cells, a number of actions are triggered. These include:
- 1. apoptosis, or “cellular suicide”,
- 2. decreasing blood supply to the tumors,
- 3. activation of our endocannabinoid system which has powerful anti-cancer effects,
- 4. the non-THC cannabinoids have been shown to lower testosterone levels, mimicking pharmaceutical drugs.
As there is virtually no toxicity from cannabis, ultimately any cannabinoid shown to have anti–cancer effects should be included in a treatment regimen. With regard to prostate cancer specifically, if cannabis alone helps by decreasing testosterone without any other effects, it will certainly be worthwhile taking. The anti-testosterone effects of cannabis might be extremely helpful if standard pharmaceutical testosterone blockers ultimately fail. In addition to having anti-tumor properties, using THC as a cancer therapy will also help with side effects such as pain, nausea, and appetite enhancement as well.
Non-psychoactive cannabinoids (CBD, THC-A, and more) have been tested even more extensively than THC cannabinoids, in order to avoid user-related psychoactivity issues. Personally, I think this is incomplete, and eventually more studies will (and should) include THC. My theory is that most of the cannabinoids and many of the terpenes and flavonoids will be shown to have anti-cancer effects, and employing multi-cannabinoid therapy will eventually end up with 5 or 6 or more cannabinoids.
The data certainly needs confirmation, but these studies should prove very valuable and therefore must be done. If we are able to use cannabinoid therapy in addition to hormonal blocking, we just may see older men becoming much older men!
Dr Frankel talks about his recent personal and professional experience treating prostate cancer with cannabis and traditional therapies. Also touches on how can
CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know
BY Cynthia DeMarco
CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio.
It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products.
But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know.
What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp?
Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.
The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC.
Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?
Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer.
What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment?
It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized.
There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.
Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?
Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?
Yes. Epidiolex. It was originally approved in 2018 for the treatment of two conditions, both related to epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But aside from Epidiolex, no CBD product has been approved by the FDA for any other medical purpose.
What are the dangers of using CBD oil?
Quality, cleanliness and regulation are the biggest concerns.
All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.
In terms of purity, THC and CBD are both extracted from hemp and marijuana using essentially similar processes. But trace amounts of THC could still end up in CBD oil. And if the THC is at a high enough concentration, it could produce the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.
Second, if a lab produces both CBD and THC products, there can be cross-contamination — whether it’s through extraction, handling or packaging.
Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.
Finally, there have been some reports of people getting infections after using CBD and cannabis products. This is especially concerning for immunocompromised patients, who are already susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.
Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.
Does CBD oil have any side effects?
CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.
And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.
This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.
Is CBD oil even legal?
CBD has a very complex legal status right now.
At the national level, any product of marijuana — including CBD — is still technically illegal when used medically. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationally, that’s only permitted if it’s not marketed for medical use or as a dietary supplement. CBD products intended for medical use should undergo an FDA review process.
State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.
What’s the most important thing cancer patients should know about CBD oil?
There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.
Also, avoid products with health-related claims on their labels. The only product approved by the FDA for its medical value is Epidiolex.
Wondering whether you should use CBD oil to cope with cancer treatment and its side effects? We spoke with Kimberson Tanco, M.D., to separate fact from fiction.