‘Can CBD oil treat prostate cancer?’ and other questions from Bill Turnbull’s documentary
Bill Turnbull’s powerful documentary got plenty of people talking about the various treatment options he tried. One of our expert Clinical Nurse Specialists answers some commonly asked questions.
Did you see Bill Turnbull: Staying Alive on Channel 4? It’s a powerful documentary that follows the TV presenter and journalist currently living with advanced prostate cancer as he goes through chemotherapy, tries diets and complementary therapies, and speaks to others with the disease, including Stephen Fry.
Many of you had questions and comments about the show. Here, one of our Specialist Nurses, Sophie, answers some commonly asked questions.
Q. Can cannabis help cure prostate cancer?
At the moment, we don’t know if cannabis can help treat prostate cancer. Some studies have looked at the effect of chemicals in cannabis, called cannabinoids, on prostate cancer cells. There are two main cannabinoids that have been investigated – THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). The studies found that cannabinoids may stop prostate cancer cells from growing and dividing, cause prostate cancer cells to die, and stop prostate cancer cells from invading other tissues and spreading.
But these studies have only looked at prostate cancer cells grown in laboratories or in mice. There’s a long way to go in understanding whether there might be similar effects in patients. Cells can behave very differently in humans, so we need clinical trials in humans to see if cannabinoids could be used to treat prostate cancer. We also don’t yet understand the mechanism by which the cannabinoids prevent prostate cancer cells from growing or dividing either.
Also, cannabinoids can have side effects that are unpleasant or even harmful. It’s important to remember that the cannabinoids used in studies are made in a laboratory and are only one of many chemicals that are found in cannabis. Street-bought (recreational) cannabis contains chemicals that can cause you to hallucinate and could harm your mental health.
At the moment, we don’t know if cannabis can help to treat prostate cancer.
There’s some evidence that cannabis-based medicines can help with long-term pain, including pain caused by cancer. Currently doctors in the UK can only prescribe cannabis-based medicines to treat nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy – when other medicines haven’t worked. Cannabis-based medicines aren’t available to treat cancer-related pain unless you’re taking part in a clinical trial. If you’re interested, your doctor should be able to tell you about any clinical trials that might be suitable. You can also search for clinical trials at www.bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk
It’s important to remember that it’s illegal to grow or sell cannabis in the UK. It’s also illegal to have any cannabis-based products, unless a doctor has prescribed them for medicinal use. CBD oil is legal, but only if it contains extremely low levels of THC (less than 0.2%). However, there’s little evidence to suggest CBD oil benefits cancer patients and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Q. Can changing my diet and keeping physically active help fight prostate cancer?
This is a topic people often call us about. Eating healthily, being physically active and staying a healthy weight is important for general health, but can be especially important for men with prostate cancer.
Why? Well, firstly because there’s strong evidence that being overweight increases the risk of aggressive or advanced prostate cancer.
Staying a healthy weight may also mean your prostate cancer is less likely to spread after surgery or radiotherapy. And if you’re having hormone therapy to treat your prostate cancer, your treatment may be less effective if you’re very overweight.
If you’re experiencing side effects from prostate cancer treatment, such as weight gain, bone thinning or hot flushes from hormone therapy, bowel problems or urinary problems, making changes to your lifestyle may also help you manage them.
Our diet and physical activity factsheet is a great resource we often recommend to people with questions.
Eating healthily, being physically active and staying a healthy weight is also important for men with prostate cancer.
Q. Bill and his friend Nick made a vegetable broth which they said was great for men with prostate cancer. Are there any particular foods which help fight advanced prostate cancer?
People often ask us about foods they’ve heard might slow down the growth of prostate cancer, or lower the chance of it coming back after treatment. These include soya beans and other pulses, green tea, tomatoes and lycopene (a plant chemical found in tomatoes), cruciferous vegetables (for example, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and pomegranate.
In all of these cases, there’s some evidence to suggest they might be helpful for men with prostate cancer – but other studies haven’t shown any effect. This means we can’t say for sure whether any of these foods can help.
Q. What treatments are available for men with advanced prostate cancer?
If you have prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer), treatment won’t cure your cancer. But it can help keep it under control and manage any symptoms, often for several years.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, you may be offered some or a combination of the following treatments: chemotherapy with hormone therapy, hormone therapy alone, clinical trials, and in some cases, radiotherapy to the prostate.
If your cancer starts to grow again after your first treatment, there are other treatments that you can have to help control the cancer and manage any symptoms. These include: hormone therapy, including abiraterone or enzalutamide; more chemotherapy, radium-223(Xofigo®)or clinical trials.
There are also treatments available to manage symptoms, such as bone pain. They include: pain-relieving drugs, radiotherapy and bisphosphonates.
We Specialist Nurses are here to discuss your options whatever your situation, with all the time you need to talk.
The emotional impact
As Bill’s powerful documentary shows, an advanced prostate cancer diagnosis can have a huge emotional impact on you and your family. We know it can be really overwhelming, and that’s why we’re here to support anyone affected by prostate cancer. We also have lots of online information on dealing with the emotional impact.
Here’s a useful ‘how to manage’ guide specifically about advanced prostate cancer, with films of real-life stories and tips from people who have been through similar experiences.
If Bill’s documentary sparked questions or worries about prostate cancer or other prostate problems, get in contact with our Specialist Nurses. Call 0800 074 8383 (Monday-Friday: 9am-6pm, Wednesday: 10am-8pm) or chat with us online.
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Ask all the questions you need answers to, or just talk. Our nurses have time for you.
Bill Turnbull: on chemo and the making of his documentary, Staying Alive
Ahead of tonight’s documentary we spoke to our ambassador Bill Turnbull about diagnosis, chemotherapy and the Turnbull/Fry effect.
‘Can CBD oil treat prostate cancer?’ and other questions from Bill Turnbull’s documentary Bill Turnbull’s powerful documentary got plenty of people talking about the various treatment options he
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