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Million Dollar Federal Grant Explores Marijuana’s Effects on Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy and marijuana (or cannabis) are becoming more popular therapeutic choices in oncology, approved by numerous patients and physicians. Researchers today want to dig deep into the link between marijuana and immunotherapy to treat cancer.  

The National Cancer Institute (under the NIH) has funded the University of Buffalo with a million-dollar grant ($3.2 million) to do further research and in-depth study about the medicinal effects of cannabis on cancer immunotherapy treatment. 

What do you think the findings suggest? Will the result increase weed delivery Vancouver for medical purposes? Let’s find out more. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Cannabis comes in various forms and is consumed in several ways
  • There’s a connection between cancer and marijuana usage 
  • Results of clinical trials about cannabis for treatment 
  • Cannabis imposes potential benefits for cancer immunotherapy
  • THC compound contributes more to cancer treatment 

A Little Background About Cannabis

Cannabis comes in various species, including Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, and is consumed in different ways, including:

  • Smoking dried flowers, leaves, stems, or seeds.
  • Inhaling it through a vaporizer or vaping device, such as an e-cigarette.
  • Consuming it in foods or teas.
  • Taking cannabis oils and capsules by placing them under the tongue or swallowing them.

Historical records from Ancient Egypt, India, and China show its use in treating ailments like hemorrhoids and insomnia. But in the Western world, cannabis became popular as a medicine in the 1840s, known for its sedative and pain-relieving effects.

Over time, researchers have identified active compounds called cannabinoids in cannabis, including THC and CBD, which contribute to its effects.

Medicinal Effect of Cannabis on Cancer Immunotherapy: The Research 

A psychiatrist from the University of Buffalo (UB) received research grant funding to lead a year-long study to investigate how cannabis use can affect cancer treatment. Thomas Jefferson University and Oregon Health and Science University collaborated on this study. Each institution has recruited 450 cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy.

The study aimed to investigate if access to cannabis can lessen health disparities. UB’s diverse team, skilled in cancer symptom management, medical cannabis, health equity, oncology, immunology, and substance misuse, ensures lasting improvements in cancer care by enhancing their understanding of symptom management and enhancing patient safety.

What the Study Found? 

  • Nearly 44% of cancer patients with 20 different tumour types receive immunotherapy treatment, particularly involving immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). Immune checkpoints are a natural immune system component and regulate the immune response to prevent healthy cell damage.
  • Up to 40% of cancer patients use cannabis to manage symptoms during and after treatments. However, there is limited rigorous research on the effectiveness of cannabis for symptom management, according to Rebecca Ashare, the associate professor of psychology at the College of Arts and Sciences and the grant’s principal investigator.

The Link Between Cancer and Marijuana 

Researchers are looking for medicines to both prevent and cure cancer, as well as drugs to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients. Could marijuana be one of these medicines?

Marijuana has been part of herbal remedies for hundreds of years. Scientists have found several active components in marijuana, known as cannabinoids. The main ones studied are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but other cannabinoids are also under investigation.

Different strains and crops of marijuana plants can contain varying amounts of active compounds. This leads to different effects depending on the strain used.

THCCBD
A substance causing a “high” Non-psychoactive and does not produce a “high”
Interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid systemIndirectly affects cannabinoid receptors by changing how they work
Aids in pain relief, nausea reduction, muscle spasm controlAids in pain management, anxiety and depression reduction, epilepsy treatment

Cancer patients who use marijuana report benefits such as reducing nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite, relieving pain, and easing anxiety. Medicines derived from specific chemicals in marijuana could complement standard treatments or help patients who haven’t responded to traditional immunotherapies.

Clinical Trials of Cannabis

To thoroughly test the potential benefits of cannabinoids for cancer, large clinical trials with control groups are conducted. Some small trials have looked at the effects of cannabinoids on glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumour.

One early trial found that giving THC directly into the brain was safe and didn’t cause major side effects in nine patients with this aggressive brain tumour. However, because there was no control group, it couldn’t determine if THC helped extend patients’ lives.

Another trial tested whether Sativex, a pharmaceutical-grade cannabis extract, could treat recurrent glioblastoma in combination with chemotherapy. The trial found that adding Sativex had acceptable side effects, and more patients were alive after one year compared to those taking a placebo. However, this trial was small and aimed to test safety rather than effectiveness. 

THC and Cancer Immunotherapy 

Between the two cannabinoids, THC can contribute more to treating cancer. In clinical comparisons, THC was found to be more effective in reducing chemotherapy-induced vomiting compared to a placebo. THC, found in Marinol (dronabinol), has been used for over ten years to address these symptoms in cancer patients.

Researchers have studied various cannabinoids to see if they can reduce vomiting after cancer therapy. Four cannabinoids show some effectiveness, including:

  • Delta-9-THC
  • Delta-8-THC
  • Nabilone
  • Levonantradol

Two further studies suggest that smoking marijuana can also help reduce chemotherapy-induced vomiting, although the evidence is limited.

Improve Cannabis Usage With Quality THC Vape Pens 

THC vape pens or cartridges offer a convenient way to consume cannabis. Be it before or after the therapy, you can rely on the following THC vape pens: 

Vape Pen/CartridgeTHC RangeFlavor Description
Pink Papaya Punch Vape Cartridge90.00%Sweet tropical aroma with Limonene, Myrcene, Bisabolol
Super Lemon Haze 510 Thread Cartridge80.00-83.00%Tangy citrus flavour with hints of herbs (Limonene, Terpinolene)
Tiger Blood Disposable Vape Cartridge84.00-90.00%Juicy watermelon, sweet strawberry, smooth coconut
Pink Lemonade 510 Thread Cartridge80.00-86.00%Sweet raspberry, refreshing lemonade with cannabis extract

Conclusion

Lots of scientific studies are going on worldwide to explore more about the potential effects of cannabis, not just on cancer immunotherapy but on overall health. The study by the University of Buffalo (UB) has seen potential in cannabis to help fight cancer – greatly contributed by the THC compound. 

The allocation of a million-dollar federal grant to explore marijuana’s effects on cancer immunotherapy represents a major step forward in medical research. This holds promise for advancing our understanding of the benefits of cannabis in cancer treatment, which can further flourish the cannabis market and weed delivery in Vancouver and other cities. 

Frequently asked questions

There are approved medicines based on marijuana compounds, which include:

  • Dronabinol: Contains THC and is FDA-approved to treat nausea, vomiting from cancer chemotherapy, and weight loss in AIDS patients.
  • Nabilone: A synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC used for therapy-induced nausea and vomiting when other treatments fail.
  • Nabiximols: A mouth spray with THC and CBD, available in Canada and parts of Europe for cancer pain, MS-related muscle spasms, and pain.

Our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, which interact with cannabinoid receptors on cell surfaces. These receptors are found in the brain and immune tissues, forming the endocannabinoid system.

  • THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids mimic our natural endocannabinoids.
  • They interact with receptors, affecting bodily functions like memory, sleep, pain, and immune response.
  • Cannabinoids can alleviate common cancer symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and pain.

There are various strains of cannabis with varying levels of THC, CBD, and other compounds. This means they can have different effects on the body. The effects of cannabis also depend on how it’s consumed: by inhaling (smoking or vaping) or ingesting (edibles).

  • When inhaled, THC enters the bloodstream and brain, providing fast-acting effects that fade relatively quickly.
  • When ingested (e.g., oils, drinks, baked goods), cannabis goes through the stomach to the liver, where THC is converted into a stronger compound, intensifying the high.

Cannabinoid drugs, like dronabinol, can reduce nausea and vomiting from cancer therapies. However, it was not more effective than a placebo or another drug (megestrol acetate) in cancer patients. Nabiximols may help with cancer pain not relieved by strong pain medicines, but more research is needed.

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