Cannabis Compounds That Fight Ovarian Cancer?
Cannabis for Ovarian Cancer Is Promising as Researchers Test Cannabinoids in New Studies
According to the American Cancer Society, over 19,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2023.
Another 13,000 women will die from this dreadful disease. It’s the 8th most common cancer affecting women worldwide. It’s hard to diagnose because the primary symptoms, which are stomach pain and bloating, are far too common among women – which means that ovarian cancer is often diagnosed when it’s already at a later stage.
Ovarian cancer, when diagnosed early enough, can still be treated through either surgery or chemotherapy; in later cases, this usually requires both. Surgery will be necessary to get rid of the tumor, and chemotherapy may help to further kill any tumors and cancerous cells.
But studies show that cannabis and hemp can be beneficial for patients of ovarian cancer.
Studies Show Potential
Researchers from the Southern Illinois University (SIU) are diving deeper into understanding how marijuana’s compounds may help treat ovarian cancer. Dr. Dale “Buck” Buchanan, a professor of physiology and researcher at SIU, leads the study to determine how the disease can be prevented. “The vast majority of ovarian cancer research is focused toward extending what we call ‘progression-free survival’”, he explains. “So it seems misguided to me that the focus of the research is on this incremental increase in life,” Dr. Buchanan says, emphasizing that prevention is their primary goal.
Their research found that Omega 3 acids, which are abundant in flaxseeds, are beneficial. Omega threes are potent anti-inflammatories, and when introduced to the diet of animal models, it was found to be effective in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. “The consequence of this is that it has a 70% reduction in the severity of cancer and a 30% reduction in the incidence, and all we did was introduce flax into their diet,” he says. “But we know nothing about how it works, so that’s our work.”
“So in the endocannabinoid system, there are cannabinoids produced inside our bodies, and they’re binding to specific receptors, one and two,” explains Titas Roy, a graduate student who is helping out with the research. “So two is not that much expressed in the ovary, but receptor one is there in high abundance, and it seems like the expression of those receptors increases in cancer.”
They are currently working to investigate how proteins, which are produced in different varieties in the ovaries and in the overall endocannabinoid system, impact one another to better understand the link between ovarian cancer and cannabinoids.
Meanwhile, in an older study, researchers from Kentucky analyzed how locally grown hemp may help fight ovarian cancer. “Hemp, like marijuana, contains therapeutically valuable components such as cannabidiol, cannabinol, and tetrahydrocannabinol. However, unlike marijuana, hemp’s therapeutic ability has not been studied in detail,” explained researchers Chase Turner and Sara Biela during the 2018 Experimental Biology Meeting.
In the first study, they exposed ovarian cancer cells to KY hemp. They found that it was effective in reducing the ability of the cells to migrate. Another study involved them studying how the hemp may have a role, if any, in preventing ovarian cancer. They were specifically interested in a chemical called interleukin IL-1 beta, which speeds up the progression of cancer.
“We hypothesized that the hemp-induced modulation of interleukin-1 beta production may play a role in hemp-induced anti-cancer effects,” they said.
It was found that the hemp did work in reducing interleukin IL-1 beta levels, which they hope can provide the foundation for developing therapies in the future. “Our findings from this research, as well as prior research, show that KY hemp slows ovarian cancer comparable to, or even better than, the current ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin,” writes the researchers.
A new study out of Israel, which was published in the medical journal Cancers, reveals that cannabis extracts containing CBC and CBD were both effective in treating head and neck cancer cells in laboratory experiments. For the study, Israeli researchers analyzed the cancer-killing activity of 24 cannabinoids.
When CBD and CBD were administered using a 2:1 ratio, they reported it “maximizes the cytotoxicity of HNSCC [head and neck squamous cell carcinoma] cells,” they wrote. The study’s authors further report an entourage effect which was observed when CBD was administered together with THC, following a 2:1 ration though they noticed that the CBD and CBD ratio was safer.
“Our research found CBD to enhance the cytotoxic effect of CBD, establishing additional support for the phenomenon of the entourage effect in phytocannabinoids,” wrote the investigators. “Considering the adverse psychotomimetic effects of THC, there is a clear advantage for favoring the CBD-CBC combination over CBD-THC for novel treatments for HNSCC,” they wrote.
“This research suggests using whole cannabis extracts, which are decarboxylated CBD-rich, to induce cancer cell death,” the researchers concluded.
There are numerous studies, and a growing body of evidence, pointing towards cannabis’ cancer-killing abilities. It can also be taken alongside chemotherapy to help make the treatment more effective and bearable, given its notorious side effects.
Additionally, considering how many women are dying from ovarian cancer alone, not to mention the rest of the population affected by the different types of cancers, we are hopeful that scientists can learn more about how cannabis can be administered in the most effective, safest way for cancer treatment as well as prevention.